Oleksandr Usyk joins the greats with historic undisputed victory over Tyson Fury

Ukrainian cements legacy by adding fully unified heavyweight title to his astonishing list of achievements

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Oleksandr Usyk didn’t just win the undisputed heavyweight title in Riyadh on Saturday night – he effectively completed boxing.

Usyk’s victory over Tyson Fury, the crowning achievement in a career littered with them, sees him transcend the here and now and take his place as one of the greatest and most decorated fighters of all time.

The 37-year-old Ukrainian has won every title available to him, and it merits listing them.

As an amateur he was national, European, world and Olympic champion. As an unbeaten professional he has now added the fully unified and undisputed heavyweight title to his fully unified and undisputed cruiserweight championship – all within just 22 bouts. There is simply nothing left for him to win.

That resume is already the stuff of legend, but it’s when you start to add context to those accomplishments that the scale of Usyk’s greatness is revealed.

He has spoken of how he feels a deep sense of responsibility to provide victories to lift the morale of the Ukrainian armed forces defending their country in the face of Russian aggression; to provide inspiration for the Ukrainian people, who live with the terrifying daily reality of rocket and drone attacks. It’s a pressure that’s hard to fathom.

His compatriot, the former champion Wladimir Klitschko, said Usyk made him proud to be Ukrainian, that Saturday’s triumph allowed Ukrainians to feel normal again for a short time.

It was the latest in a spectacular run of victories made even more remarkable by the fact that they’ve all been achieved on the road.

Russia’s invasion has prevented Usyk from returning to fight on home turf. The closest he has come to a homecoming bout was last August’s ninth-round stoppage of Daniel Dubois in Wroclaw, where thousands of his displaced countrymen roared him to victory.

A few hundred miles north, back in 2015, he won his first professional title against the Pole Krzysztof Glowacki in Gdansk. He defended against Germany's Marco Huck in Berlin. He relieved Latvia’s Mairis Briedis of his title in Riga and then completed the set at cruiserweight by travelling to Moscow to outclass Russia’s Murat Gassiev.

He headed to the UK and beat Tony Bellew and Derek Chisora before claiming the heavyweight title in dominant fashion against Anthony Joshua in his London back yard.

Usyk spoke on Saturday of missing the birth of his daughter, his son’s birthday and family holidays, such has been his single-minded pursuit of the undisputed crown.

It was that grit and determination that enabled him to turn the tables on Fury, who had taken control and battered him about the ring in a brutal sixth round at the Kingdom Arena.

For many, Usyk will now be considered boxing’s pound-for-pound number one. This was pound-for-pound greatness in full view as he gave up six inches in height and more than two stone in weight to conquer the giant Fury.

It was a special performance from a special fighter. Usyk always seems to find a way. He said he wanted to deliver a victory “for all Ukrainian people”, he did that and more.

Updated: May 19, 2024, 10:43 AM