Split?!? Usyk Refuses To Be Denied In Stellar Win

Last night (Sat., May 18, 2024), Oleksandr Usyk defeat Tyson Fury to become undisputed Heavyweight champion in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

By most any standards, Usyk vs. Fury was a great fight. Really, there wasn’t any controversy either, as Usyk was able to win long portions of the bout and score a knockdown. His success and performance would generally result in a clear-cut victory, but this is boxing, so Usyk was named the winner via split-decision.

As is usually the case between high-level champions, both athletes brought game plans into the ring with them. For Usyk, his strategy was obvious from the first bell. He wanted to press Fury into the fence and work the body with his left hand, dulling Fury to that inevitable moment when the left looped upstairs instead. Conversely, Fury opted to work the outside. He anticipated Usyk’s pressure, and his antidote was to flash the jab, feint actively, and sneak counter shots up the middle.

What’s really fun is that we saw both game plans work! For most of the first three rounds, Uysk’s pressure and volume were the deciding factors. He committed himself fully to the body work, and when he did take his left hand high, it tended to land a result. In rounds four through six, however, Fury’s game plan really took over. His probing jab allowed him to start timing Usyk with heavy uppercuts, and when Usyk hesitated for a moment, Fury was able to unleash his own ripping body shots to great effect.

Through six rounds, it was almost perfectly even. Fury entered the latter half of the fight with all the momentum on his side, yet just a few minutes later, he was nearly unconscious. The bell saved him, but Fury wouldn’t find all that much success in the final 18 minutes of combat.

What was the deciding factor?

To my eye, the primary difference was focus. Usyk kept his eyes on the prize for the entirety of 36 minutes, whereas Fury sought moments to take his foot off the gas. I’m not even talking about Fury’s habit of dropping his hands and showboating — that’s standard “Gypsy King” antics. Instead, I’m pointing to the little moments, the times Fury opted to stand against the ropes rather than work off immediately. How about the start of almost every round? Each time the bell rang, Usyk stepped down the middle with a serious left hand swing.

In a fight where both men had strong moments and viable paths to victory, Usyk’s utter focus and determination won him the fight. He utterly refused to take his foot off the gas. Even when met with adversity and hard counters, Usyk doubled down and pressed harder. He was always inching Fury down the path that would lead to an Usyk victory, and that’s a lot easier said than done against a world-class opponent.

Championship mettle was on display.

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