Oleksandr Usyk edges Tyson Fury by split decision, now undisputed

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- There hadn't been an undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis defeated Evander Holyfield in a rematch of all-time greats in November 1999 in Las Vegas.

Halfway around the world -- and nearly 25 years later -- another undisputed champion in boxing's glamour division was crowned when Oleksandr Usyk floored Tyson Fury in Round 9 en route to a split decision victory early Sunday at sold-out Kingdom Arena.

The wait was well worth it as both men delivered a fight befitting the prize they were competing for.

One judge scored it 114-113 for Fury but was overruled by scores of 114-113 and 115-112 for Usyk, who handed the Englishman his first professional loss.

"It's [a] big opportunity for me, for my family, for my country, for history," said Usyk, who resides in war-torn Ukraine. "It's [a] great day."

Usyk, who entered with the WBA, IBF and WBO belts, captured Fury's WBC title to become the first undisputed heavyweight champ in the four-belt era. He also became the lineal heavyweight champion, a title Fury had held since 2015 following an upset victory over Usyk's countryman, Wladimir Klitschko.

The two-fight deal for this long-awaited matchup included a planned Oct. 12 rematch in Riyadh, where Fury will look to even the score and move on to a superfight with Anthony Joshua in the first quarter of 2025.

"I believe I won the fight, but I'm not going to sit here and cry and make excuses," said Fury, who owned a 39-pound and 6-inch advantage over Usyk. "I believe he won a few of the rounds, but I won the majority of them. What can you do? We both put on a good fight, the best we could do. ... People are siding with the country at war. But make no mistake, I won that fight ... and I'll be back. We've got a rematch clause."

Usyk (22-0, 14 KOs) needed four stitches to close a cut over his right eye, according to his promoter, K2 Promotions' Alexander Krassyuk. There also was concern that Usyk suffered a broken jaw in the fight, and he was headed to a local hospital for an MRI. Usyk's assistant trainer and cutman, Russ Anber, told ESPN that the fighter didn't complain about jaw pain until after the fight.

However, Krassyuk told ESPN there is "no doubt" Usyk would be ready for the planned Oct. 12 rematch.

Usyk, 37, appeared on the brink of finishing Fury in Round 9 after he landed 14 flush shots as the Englishman wobbled around the ring. The last of those punches caused Fury to slump into the ropes, which held him up for the ninth knockdown of his illustrious career. Before Usyk could pounce on Fury (34-1-1, 24 KOs) following the count, the round ended. When Round 10 began, Fury had recovered following the minute of rest.

Although Usyk didn't finish Fury, he shifted momentum in the fight for good. He swept Rounds 8-10 on all three scorecards to pull away down the stretch. Fury won the final round unanimously, but by then it was too late.

Even in defeat, Fury rebounded in a big way following his lackluster performance in October against Francis Ngannou, the former UFC heavyweight champion who was boxing professionally for the first time. Fury, 35, was floored in Round 3 of that bout on his way to a split decision victory in a nontitle fight.

Against Usyk, "The Gypsy King" boxed beautifully for stretches, expertly using feints and his long jab to pepper Usyk from range. He often followed up with a stinging right uppercut that clipped Usyk on numerous occasions.

Fury won Rounds 5-7 unanimously and even began to taunt, putting his hands behind his back and smirking at Usyk with each thudding body shot. But Usyk never wavered. He continued to press forward, and slowly but surely, his pressure wore down Fury.

Usyk was able to back Fury up into the ropes and began to find a home for his overhand left, the same punch that helped lift him to a pair of victories over Joshua in 2021 and 2022 to capture the unified heavyweight championship.

Fury entered the ring as ESPN's No. 10 pound-for-pound boxer and No. 1 heavyweight. Usyk was ranked No. 2 at heavyweight and No. 3 pound-for-pound.

The fight was originally scheduled for Feb. 17 but was postponed when Fury suffered a cut in sparring that required 11 stitches over his right eye two weeks out. Against Usyk, Fury suffered another cut, but this time over his left eye.

Usyk inflicted the damage in a career-best performance following a ninth-round KO of Daniel Dubois in August in Poland. And he did it in front of Klitschko, who was ringside -- as were Lewis and Holyfield. Klitschko's brother (and fellow former heavyweight champ) Vitali is the mayor of Kiev.

At the postfight news conference, Usyk was presented two flags signed by the Ukrainian military fighting off Russian forces at the border.

"They are real heroes," Krassyuk said. "Usyk is fighting because of them, because they give him this possibility."

As the fight against Fury came to a close, Usyk remembered his late father, who died just days after Usyk claimed gold at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Usyk wasn't able to present him the medal.

At the postfight news conference Sunday, as he broke down in tears on the dais, Usyk said, "I know he is here with me."