Oleksandr Usyk burst into the top tier of the heavyweight division when he bamboozled Anthony Joshua to win their first fight in September and take possession of three of the four major heavyweight titles.
That display was especially impressive as Usyk, formerly the undisputed champion at cruiserweight, had only boxed twice before in the division. He stepped up to heavyweight with two low-key outings, stopping Chazz Whitherspoon and outpointing Dereck Chisora, before he excelled in beating Joshua.
His impact as a heavyweight has come as no shock to Peter Fury, one of the country’s leading trainers who coaches his son and heavyweight contender, Hughie Fury, as well as Savannah Marshall.
“I’m not one of these to jump on the gravy train. I’ve always been impressed with Usyk, from a long time ago. I’ve always known Usyk was the real deal,” Fury told Sky Sports.
“He’s a good fighter Usyk, talented and he’s a natural fighter as well. That’s the difference. That’s why he’s a quality operator. This guy can box in his sleep. He’s born, bred to fight this Usyk. So he’s as real as it gets, he’s a proper fighter in my eyes.”
“I’d have to at this stage slightly favor Usyk in it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Joshua can come up with it and get the win”
As the unified WBO, IBF and WBA champion, Usyk succeeds Wladimir Klitschko as the next great heavyweight from Ukraine. But Usyk is a very different type of fighter.
“Klitschko fought like big men should, and was a good fighter in his day. This is a different time and Usyk is a rounded package. Not to say he’s better than them, they’ve had their time and I’m not saying that , but this guy is more of a rounded fighter,” said Fury, who trained his nephew Tyson Fury when he dethroned Wladimir Klitschko.
“Hey [Usyk] takes punches, he rolls with them, he slips in, he’s got all the skillset in the world. He’s not just mastered one skillset and stuck to it. This guy has got multi-gears in his closet and he can turn the heat up and down. He ticks all the boxes.”
Joshua famously beat Klitschko too. But he is yet to find answers to all the questions that Usyk can pose. That however doesn’t mean it’s impossible for him to have his revenge in the rematch.
There’s plenty for Joshua to correct from the first fight too. The issue is whether he can. “It’s a big question,” Fury said. “He should do, he’s got different trainers and I’m sure they’ll input a lot into it.
“But ultimately when that bell goes as he raises his game and changes it, so will Usyk. Uysk will know what’s coming. So let’s see.
“Joshua could be a different fighter, let his hands go, close the range more and just think, ‘Right, let’s get stuck in.’ On the other hand, he could leave himself more vulnerable, more open and get caught. So again, it’s the way you see it.”
His mindset going into the Usyk rematch will be crucial. “He said to somebody when he climbed into the ring [before the first fight], ‘How would you go about it?’ That’s hardly the right mentality going into anything,” Fury pointed out.
“So he was already looking at it [thinking,] ‘Jesus, I’ve got a mountain to climb here. This guy’s very good. What am I going to do?’ That’s a recipe for disaster.
“So I think he can get it together. I think it’ll be a harder fight this time. But he’s going to have to change a lot of things. Can he win it? Yeah, he can win it. He’s a big strong man. He’s dedicated. But again, you can overthink things and if he starts thinking about too many gameplans, this and that and loads of other things, ‘I need to be perfect, I need to get it absolutely right,’ I need this , I need that – he’ll fail.
“There’s a lot of hype around it, everybody’s looking forward to it, I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a phenomenal fight. Look, I wish both of them all the best. I don’t favor either . It’s a good fight and Usyk is a good fighter and if Joshua comes through, he’s proven himself. But it’s a tall order. I’d have to at this stage slightly favor Usyk in it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Joshua can come up with it and get the win.”
Fury knows full well what it takes to win a heavyweight championship fight. “Forget all the unifications, forget the seriousness of it, be the best of yourself,” he said. “That’s it. No more. No less.”
Anthony Joshua’s huge heavyweight rematch against Oleksandr Usyk is on Saturday August 20, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book Usyk vs Joshua 2 now!