By Elliot Worsell
WITHOUT meaning to, and without it even being planned, Oleksandr Usyk will have realised this evening (November 16) that the best way to silence Tyson Fury is to simply not give him anything back.
Because owing to the language barrier, which, among other things separates these two heavyweights, there was very little in the way of back and forth at today’s press conference to officially announce their February 17 fight in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This wasn’t for the want of trying on Fury’s part – indeed, he opened proceedings with a typical foul-mouthed tirade – but soon he discovered that no matter how much abuse he sent the way of Usyk, some of it personal, he would never get a rise from the stoic and far calmer Ukrainian.
Instead, by the time it was Usyk’s turn to speak, he apologised first for not delivering his speech in English and then, with the floor finally his, regaled those in attendance with a story.
“I want to tell one story that looks very similar to my story with Tyson,” the unified heavyweight champion said. “It’s called David and Goliath. When the Lord gives me Tyson in my hands, I will make my job.”
Given the mention of God, it then wasn’t long before Fury piped up again, this time saying, “Impossible. The Lord would never deliver me to you, son; especially a man wearing earrings. When you sleep at night, you’re going to be thinking of me for the next eight weeks.”
After that, Fury, like an excitable dog who had been taken on a walk, thankfully settled down again.
“I’ve been in many heavyweight title fights before,” he said. “It is what it is. Now’s the most important one. We’re both undefeated and we’re both champions. It’s going to be one for the ages.
“We’ve been chosen and I believe we’re both destined to be here in this fight in Saudi Arabia. I’m destined to become undisputed champion.
“I’ve seen many people like him before and when they fight the big men they struggle. He’s going to struggle on February 17. I will break him, for sure.”
A consistent theme with these two, Fury’s mention of Usyk’s size – that is, the prospect of him struggling with a big man – led to Fury then being asked whether he believed the size difference would be key on the night. However, in true Fury style, he just as soon contradicted himself by telling the room, “Never mind the size. He is a middleweight, but it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. But when you meet a big man who’s also got the fight in him, let’s put it in a nutshell: you’re fucked.”
Usyk, playing cute, accepted that may well be the case, but seemed keener just to move on. Revealingly, he said, “The first time I had a face-off with Tyson after the (Derek) Chisora fight (December 2022), he was very motivated with high energy and high spirits. The last time (after Fury defeated Francis Ngannou in October) he was exhausted.”
Unwilling to have that thought stick around in the room, Fury, the WBC champion, was then quick to shoot down the idea that Usyk, unbeaten in 21 fights but with only five of those coming at heavyweight, represented the toughest test of his career to date.
“Nowhere near (his toughest fight),” Fury, 34-0-1 (24), said. “He’s a boxer; a slick boxer; southpaw. He ain’t the biggest puncher in the world and he ain’t the strongest. I can outbox him; I can get on the front foot. There are plenty of ways to skin this cat.”