Oleksandr Usyk discusses Tyson Fury’s performance, the Daniel Dubois ‘low blow’, the invasion of Ukraine and the importance of December 23
Interview: Declan Warrington
BN: What’s your understanding of when and where your fight with Tyson Fury will take place?
OU: It has to take place on the 23rd of December, in Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia. We have it in contract – on paper.
Frank Warren used to talk a lot of things, blaming me for something that never happened. And, you know what? We have a contract – and the contract says that the fight has to take place on the 23rd of December, no matter what.
BN: Then, how concerned were you while watching Fury struggle against Francis Ngannou?
OU: It did disturb me. It did disturb me – I was worried a lot.
I would give a maximum of three rounds to Ngannou.
BN: Why do you think he found it so difficult?
OU: I can’t really know what’s really on Tyson’s mind, but probably he really underestimated his opponent.
BN: Fury-Usyk has been sought after for a considerable amount of time. It’s widely observed that Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao, in 2015, happened too late. How important is it that Fury-Usyk is soon?
OU: Yes, the high time, for our fight, between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, is December 23, 2023.
BN: How do you reflect on how Fury-Ngannou was promoted?
OU: I have an idea that it had to be an exhibition fight. You see, people were talking, talking, talking, but at the end of the day Ngannou entered the ring and shocked the world by what he’s done. Myself, I did not believe that Ngannou had any chance, and Ngannou just shut the mouth of everyone.
I find myself in the position that I should not think of someone’s actions and should not analyse or criticise them [regarding Fury signing to fight me before beating Ngannou]. I stay absolutely neutral towards someone’s actions.
BN: Do you expect to see a rematch?
OU: Probably. After we box with Tyson Fury on the 23rd, they might have an agreement for that.
BN: Did you watch At Home with the Furys?
OU: I’ve heard a lot about the series, but I’ve never watched it. I watched the series about David Beckham. Absolutely incredible personality. I knew he was, but this movie just confirmed it – and even overcame my impression. His family; all those people. They were just amazing. They are really cool personalities – together with Victoria.
BN: How do you intend on beating Fury?
OU: I never think of it that way. I know that Tyson is a tricky person and that sometimes he loves to pretend, but my strategy is that I have to be ready for 100 per cent [of him] or even more, and the way Tyson Fury’s prepared, I don’t care. It’s his business. I will not tell you about tactics because Tyson Fury might read this.
It’s very possible [that he will be in much better shape by December 23].
BN: You and Evander Holyfield are widely considered the two finest cruiserweights-come-heavyweights. Would beating Fury ensure you surpass Holyfield?
OU: I don’t know. I love Evander Holyfield. He’s just an extraordinary personality.
BN: How does Fury compare to Anthony Joshua?
OU: They are completely different fighters. They have different styles. Even the body size is different. The weight is different. To answer you this question, I need to first enter the ring, have a fight with Tyson, and then compare those two.
BN: How much of a coincidence do you think it is that he signed to fight you after seeing you hurt by Daniel Dubois with what some observers maintain wasn’t a low blow?
OU: If [Fury] thinks that way, it’s very good.
These are just speculations. Listen, sometimes when you have no capacity to win using the rules – the certain rules of boxing – you try to invent tricky things to get the victory. If you watch the fight on tape, you can see – notice – that he tried the low blow not just once, and the ones I could stand just missed, but the one we’re talking about, I did feel in reality. When I saw that the referee [Luis Pabon] stopped the fight for a low blow, and he told me that I had up to five minutes, I took my time – I don’t know how long it was; a minute; a minute and a half – to recover.
BN: How good can Dubois be?
OU: I treat Daniel Dubois with respect. I wish him good luck, and let him become the champion some day – that he trains well. Regarding the appeal [with the WBA for a no-contest, which was unsuccessful], when a man loses, his team might work on finding the way to hide the information on his loss in the media behind something that might take the attention of the public to a different case – and that’s what they did.
There is no way to compare [Dubois and Joshua], because they are completely different fighters. Different skills; different styles. Totally different boxers. To be fair, I don’t think [Dubois can reach Joshua’s level]. I am sorry for saying this, but this is the truth and I’m telling it.
BN: You’ve been very open about your contributions to Ukraine’s attempts to resist the invasion of Russia. What have you done in the time since beating Dubois?
First I visited my sons [Kyrylo and Mykhalio], my mum, and my wife’s parents in Europe, and then I came back to Ukraine [to Kiev] where my wife [Yekaterina], my daughter [Yelizaveta], were waiting for me, and I started to catch up with things that were waiting for me. The things I’d needed to do, since I’d left for the [Dubois] training camp. I actually caught up with some responsibilities as a husband, and a father, and I trained.
I did not visit the frontline after Poland [where I stopped Dubois], but I did visit the places that suffered after the war. I had it on my mind, so I intended to go to the frontline, but I didn’t manage to because of some coincidences.
I visited the places in the Kiev surroundings that were destroyed by the war, and I saw absolutely demolished houses that we are now rebuilding, together with my team and United 24 platform. There was life there. People lived there – at their homes. The enemy came; destroyed their homes; killed people. Some people had to leave the region. What can I feel? It’s horrible. It’s horror. It’s war. That’s what I feel.
We can say that things are slightly changing, because we want these changes. We want people back; we want houses back; we want them to live in their homes; bring up their children. That’s why my team, from my foundation, and the team of United 24 – and many people who help us, funding the foundations – we are doing this to get our people back. Back to a normal life.
BN: Word in boxing circles is that Vasyl Lomachenko will fight George Kambosos Jnr in 2024…
Yes, I’ve heard the rumours that he’s planning the fight with Kambosos. I have no idea when the fight might take place. It’s up to him to decide and announce, of course, but talking from myself, I would love to see Vasily back in the ring. I would love him to get into the fight, and to become the champion again. I want this.