Oleksandr Usyk focused only on going home not rematch after historic win over Tyson Fury

Ukrainian wins a thrilling split decision in Riyadh to become the first undisputed heavyweight world champion in 25 years

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Oleksandr Usyk said the last thing he is thinking about is boxing amid talk of a rematch following his historic victory over Tyson Fury in Riyadh early on Sunday morning.

In the first undisputed heavyweight world title fight of the four-belt era, Usyk earned the win on a split decision. Two judges scored it for Usyk by scores of 115-112 and 114-113 while the third gave it to Fury 114-113.

Britain's Fury was the early aggressor but Usyk gradually took charge and the "Gypsy King" was saved by the bell in the ninth round before slumping to his first career defeat.

Ukraine's Usyk joins the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Mike Tyson as undisputed heavyweight champion, the first since boxing recognised four major belts in the 2000s. The last undisputed champion was Lennox Lewis in 1999.

With the win, the still-undefeated former undisputed cruiserweight champion can legitimately claim to be the best of this era, although a rematch expected in October could provide another twist.

When asked if he was interested in the rematch with Fury, the Ukrainian insisted the only thing he is thinking about is returning to his family. With the fight initially scheduled for December, Usyk started training camp last September only for two delays to push the fight to Saturday night.

"I don't think about boxing now, because I started preparing in September 2023," Usyk said. "Nine months, I missed New Year, birthdays of my sons and daughter, I missed all my family holidays. All the time I was only training, my only focus was this fight.

"Now I'm happy and I want to get back home. Go to my church, pray, and say thank you to Jesus, because for me and my country, this is a big moment. I'm grateful to everyone who prayed for me because it was a lot of people."

Usyk, who adds Fury's WBC belt to his IBF, WBA and WBO titles, looks set to go down as one of the greats after dominating at amateur, cruiserweight and now the top division.

A fired-up Fury came running out of his corner to start the fight and the 6ft 9ins man (2.06m) man was quickly into his rhythm, keeping the shorter Usyk back with his jab and playing to the crowd.

Usyk got inside with some quick combinations while Fury landed some heavy body shots. By round four, the Mancunian was taunting his ever-advancing opponent and showboating, guard down.

Usyk called two low shots in round five and got caught with a left hook as Fury continued to look comfortable, landing a telling uppercut in the following round and bobbing and weaving to stay out of range.

But the Ukrainian tagged Fury with two clean lefts in the seventh and landed a punishing hook that dazed the "Gypsy King" in the eighth.

By the next round, a relentless Usyk barrage had Fury in serious trouble and the wobbling, bleeding lineal champion took a standing count before being saved by the bell.

Fury recovered his poise and with the fight in the balance heading into the final round, both fighters were finding the target.

Wladimir Klitschko was among the legends watching along with Saudi-based football stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, who like boxing are grateful beneficiaries of the oil-rich monarchy's lavish push into sports.

Riyadh's newly built, 22,000-capacity Kingdom Arena was packed when Usyk strode out for his ringwalk at 2.30am UAE time (1.30am local) wearing a green cossack coat and fur hat.

Fury followed, dancing to Barry White and Bonny Tyler's "Holding out for a Hero" in a green sleeveless jacket and back-to-front baseball cap.

It set the stage for a clash of two fighters with impeccable pedigrees and very different approaches to the sport.

Fury has had a rollercoaster career, with lows including a two-year, backdated drug ban and struggles with substance abuse and depression.

Fury had shed 15lb from his last outing when, sluggish and out of shape, he was knocked down by ex-MMA fighter Francis Ngannou en route to a split decision in October.

Usyk, by contrast, has been the model of consistency with a career that was always on the rise. The 37-year-old put together an outstanding amateur record, winning European and world titles and Olympic gold in 2012.

After turning pro, he unified the cruiserweight belts in 15 fights before moving up to heavyweight, where he took three belts from Anthony Joshua in 2021 and won their rematch in Jeddah the following year.

Usyk, who is only the third male fighter after Terence Crawford and Naoya Inoue to be undisputed world champion in two divisions, had an emotional moment in the post-fight press conference when remembering his late father, who died shortly after his Olympic victory in 2012.

"The last time, when my father visited me was in my dream," Usyk said through tears. "I miss my father and I said to him 'don't come to visit me'. It's hard when he visits me [in my thoughts] because I remember my whole life. I know he is here now."

Updated: May 19, 2024, 4:24 AM