By Alan Hubbard
It is not just the double jab of Deontay Wilder that Tyson Fury must avoid when they complete their titanic trilogy in Las Vegas on Saturday week. It is a double whammy.
Losing his WBC world heavyweight title back to the American following Anthony Joshua’s devastating defeat to Olexsandr Usyk last weekend would be one of boxing’s supreme ironies.
I doubt it will happen but if it does the much anticipated Battle of Britain between our two biggest guns may never materialise. Fury admits that he feels “wounded” that Joshua has lost his belts to the Ukrainian ace but declines to criticise AJ’s poor performance. He is not in the habit of kicking a man when he is down, he says. “It ‘ain’t my style.”
However the vanquished Joshua was taught several lessons by fellow former Olympic champion Usyk, one of the most significant of which surely being the fact that his trade is blow business, not show business
Joshua approached the most crucial contest of his career as if he was performing on stage at the London Palladium and not in the ring at Tottenham Hotspur’s new football stadium.
To begin with he seemed to put more effort into his ring walk then he did his tactics against the superbly talented Usyk who had entered the ring at a brisk pace, ignoring the crowds on either side lining the roped-off passageway, waited patiently while Joshua strutted his stuff like a movie star at a West End premiere, smiling, oozing with self-confidence, bumping fists with outstretched hands with his gloved hands and even stopping to plant a kiss on the cheek of one female fan.
All to the now over-familiar strains of “Sweet Caroline” belted out by a 60,000-plus crowd, the majority of whom seem to have come to sing, dance, swig lager and savour an event rather than a boxing match.
And once the first bell sounded, it was the undefeated former cruiserweight champion Usyk who obviously had turned up to take care of business – the real thing, not the theatrical stuff.
A good big ‘un will always beat a good little ‘un? That’s the familiar adage but there is also one in boxing which suggests that the bigger they are, the harder they fall…
Joshua was bigger in every respect but he simply did not measure up to the Ukrainian ace who not only is one of the nicest men in boxing but arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the world. Some may say that this label belongs to the prolific Mexican middleweight Saul Alvarez but in my view Usyk is technically superior to Canelo.
So why didn’t AJ use his advantages of height, weight and reach to shove Usyk around, bully him and keep backing him up? Instead he allowed his fearless foe to dictate the pace, to work his way inside the Joshua jab and land the better, more precisely picked punches. This was a master class from Usyk, who became only the third cruiserweight in history to win a world heavyweight title. In doing so he has thrown the entire heavyweight division into a state of flux.
Earlier this year it seemed we were tantalisingly close to an agreement for an all-British clash between rival world champions Joshua and Fury which would be the biggest and richest fight in history, with all the recognised belts at stake.
But an arbitration hearing in the US in May ruled that Fury had to honour a rematch agreement with Wilder, which is now set to take place in a BT Sport Box Office televised event from the T-Mobile Arena.
In this situation Joshua agreed to go ahead and face his mandatory challenger, Usyk, meaning that both Brits had to win their respective contests for their own Superfight to happen.
Alas, the Granny Smiths were strewn all over the road when Usyk and truly upset the apple cart with his intelligent points victory. However it looks likely Joshua will invoke a rematch clause.
The probability is that this could take place in London early next year though Usyk is hopeful it could happen at the Olympisky Stadium in Kyiv, the preferred Ukrainian spelling for the capital Kiev. It was fitting that the city’s illustrious mayor, former world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko was at the Spurs ground to witness his compatriot’s triumph and as one of Usyk’s promoters will use his considerable influence to get the return fight staged there.
All these machinations push the prospect of a Fury-Joshua fight deeper into the background though I agree with Frank Warren that it could still take place if AJ wins the rematch and Fury repeats his conquest of Wilder. The latter is not a given, though Fury will be a heavy favourite to do so in view of the one-sided nature of his earlier victory, which followed their previous draw
The whole situation is a conundrum of clout.
At least Joshua took his beating manfully but on this showing Fury would stand him on his head, especially if AJ was as gun shy as he was against Usyk.
A further complication is that Britain, currently blessed with several world-class heavyweights, has another number one contender in Olympic silver medallist Joe Joyce, a mandatory challenger for the WBO crown, one of the four which the Ukrainian relieved from Joshua, the others being the WBA, IBO and IBF. Fury has just the WBC title, but this is traditionally regarded as the most prestigious.
Another fascinating scenario to be considered, should Usyk again beat Joshua and Fury overcome Wilder is a bout between the two which would be one I would love to witness. At 6‘9“ the Gypsy Giant really would tower over the 6‘3“Usyk.
I think Tyson would win. But the bigger they are…