Oleksandr Usyk could get used to boxing in Saudi Arabia because according to insiders the winner of Saturday’s heavyweight title fight in Jeddah has already agreed to face Tyson Fury for the undisputed title there next year.
Usyk defends the WBA, WBO and IBF titles against Anthony Joshua, who he took them from last year. And while Fury, the WBC champion, has claimed he has retired, no one really believes him.
Least of all Derek Chisora, the London heavyweight, who lost to Fury in 2011 and 2014. Fury has been claiming that he offered Chisora £2 million for a third fight, something Chisora has denied, but the Londoner, who is managed by Joshua's company 258 Management and has a reputation for blurting out sensitive information, claims Fury already has a deal with Saturday’s winner.
“The Saudis have a two-fight deal with AJ, Usyk and Fury,” Chisora said. “This and then the winner fights Fury for undisputed.”
So, when the Ukrainian started his speech at Wednesday’s press conference by saying it was his third time there and he hoped to come back again, he probably had the Fury fight in mind.
Usyk first came to Jeddah in 2018 when he was due to face Murat Gassiev to unify the world cruiserweight title, although that fight was moved to Moscow after Usyk was injured. But he had been out for the launch and did likewise for this fight before returning for the real business last week.
Usyk, who had dressed like The Joker in the build-up to his first meeting with Joshua in London, came in full Cossack costume for Wednesday’s head-to-head at the Shangri-La hotel beside the Red Sea to show his warrior side.
But while the first fight, last September at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, ended with Joshua under heavy bombardment, Usyk doesn’t feel like he will be starting from the beginning this time.
Usyk beats Joshua
“I don’t think it’s going to be a new bout,” Usyk said. “The last bout will be continued, round 13, round 14, round 15, however long the fight will last.
“We learnt about each other in the first fight. He learnt about me and I learnt about him. We have had enough time to study each other and on Saturday night, it will be a great, great fight.”
It is not the first time that Usyk has called up his Cossack ancestry – when he won World Amateur gold and Olympic gold in 2011 and 2012, he even followed his win with a traditional dance. He also finished the press conference in Jeddah by belting out a patriotic Ukrainian song, along with members of his team, honouring those fighting against the Russians at home.
“This fight is very important for me, my team and my country,” he said. “We were born to compete for life, for belts, for everything.
“The one who does not compete does not live. All our lives are competitions for anything, for something for everybody. That’s why we are competing.”
Joshua came close to admitting his career might be on the line when he spoke.
“It’s a massive must-win,” he said. “I like the pressure. It’s been tough. Robert Garcia and Angel Fernandez (his trainers) and the rest of the team have pushed me and challenged me.
“It’s about staying focused and getting the job done and God willing, I will be victorious.”
Joshua said he was not concerned about his old belts, he just wants to beat Usyk.
“Competition is key,” he said. “You set a goal and I have goals I want to achieve on the night and I’m going to be disciplined in following them through.
“So, yeah, that’s competition with myself. The belts mean something, but that comes at the end of the process and I’m not going to skip the process.”