Fury Tries Usyk for Size in First Undisputed Heavyweight Title in 25 yrs

In the days leading up to their undisputed heavyweight title fight, Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk seemed relaxed and eager to soak up the occasion, even as their camps taunted each other and clashed.

The biggest drama came early in the week, when Fury’s father, John, headbutted a member of Usyk’s entourage. But both the fighters had stayed light-hearted throughout the build-up – good-naturedly teasing each other, and grinning and showboating in their open workouts.

But on a baking hot Thursday evening in Riyadh, as the unbeaten fighters came together at the final news conference before the bout today, both grew terse and tight-lipped as the weight of the occasion seemed to press in.

Sitting opposite them, in the front row of a crowd of sweating journalists, entourages and VIP guests, was a grey-bearded Lennox Lewis, 58, and Evander Holyfield, 61. Lewis beat Holyfield in 1999 to become boxing’s last undisputed heavyweight champion.

On stage, Usyk, 37, was wearing a black and white traditional Ukrainian sash.

“Let’s make history. Enough. Thanks very much,” he said.

Fury, who sported a flame-coloured suit and a black trilby hat, is normally a garrulous and flamboyant figure renowned for his trash talk. But the 35-year-old British boxer also had little to say on Thursday.

“I’m ready. I’ve got nothing else to say apart from I’m ready for a good fight,” he said.

“God bless him,” he added when asked if he had a message for Usyk. “I’ll say a prayer for him before the fight for us both to get out of the ring safely.”

Boxing has long frustrated fans with various belts and sanctioning bodies creating multiple champions at the same weights, and frequent disputes over money and clashing egos often prevent the best fighters from facing each other in their prime.

Although Fury vs Usyk has taken some taken to materialise and was postponed from its original date in February after Fury suffered a cut in training, the fact that a bout of this magnitude is finally happening – partly a result of growing Saudi influence in the sport – means many are billing it as the fight of this century, with the winner stepping into the ranks of the all-time greats.

On Thursday, chants by rival fans quickly petered out into the sweltering night as locals looked on quietly. Drones fizzed overhead as spotlights illuminated swirling dust, and gusts of wind buffeted the microphones on stage.

The host of the news conference tried and failed to draw more words from the fighters. When they stood for the traditional face-off, Fury refused to even look at his rival, flexing his biceps and gazing into the crowd, while Usyk stared at Fury intently, a smile playing on his lips.

“This fight is of monumental importance for the history of the heavyweight division, for boxing’s value,” combat sports analyst Luke Thomas told Al Jazeera a few days ahead of the fight.

“People always complain people don’t know who the champions are. Well, now they’re going to know. And they’re going to know in the most storied division in boxing.”

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