After defeating Anthony Joshua for the second time, Oleksandr Usyk has thrown down the challenge to Britain’s Tyson Fury to come out of retirement and fight him for the undisputed world heavyweight boxing title.
The Ukrainian made clear he was only interested in fighting Fury after outpointing Joshua again to retain the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Fury, the WBC champion, announced in April he had promised his wife he would retire but had also declared a long-standing interest in fighting Joshua. His promoter, Frank Warren, said this month that Fury was showing signs of “itchy feet” and was keen to get back into the ring.
“I’m sure that Tyson Fury is not retired yet,” Usyk told the crowd through a ringside interpreter when asked about a potential clash. “I am convinced he wants to fight me. I want to fight him. And if I’m not fighting Tyson Fury, I’m not fighting at all.”
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After Usyk’s victory, Fury posted an expletive-laden reaction video on Twitter. “It was one of the worst heavyweight title fights I have ever seen,” he said. “I would annihilate both of them on the same night.”
In the later press conference, Usyk dedicated his victory to the people of Ukraine. “It was extremely important for my country, my team and personally for me, I did box for the whole country.”
The champion travelled home at the start of Russia’s invasion and spent a month fighting with Ukraine’s territorial defence battalion.
“I saw in the eighth round, I saw in AJ’s eyes that he was feeling victorious already. I kept telling myself, ‘you cannot stop’ … big things were at stake,” Usyk said. “Thank God, the belts are coming back to Ukraine. The victory is with us.”
Joshua was emotional during his post-fight media duties, and expressed regret that a long-awaited all-British title bout with Fury is no longer on the cards.
“I wanted to win for Great Britain because I know they want me to fight Tyson Fury,” Joshua said. “I’m a fighter, I’m not a normal person, even though I try to hold it together. To be a fighter is a real different mindset.
“But I appreciate everyone’s support, especially those who watched at home, I wanted to do it for them — bring the belts home and set up a fight for the undisputed crown.”
Joshua also signalled his intention to fight again in December, saying “I’m a fighter for life. the hunger never dies”.” When asked about potential opponents, he replied: “It’s come one, come all. Whoever wants it can get it, I don’t mind.”
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Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, has promised a busier schedule for his fighter, whose future bouts will be screened by Dazn as part of an £86m deal that was paused to enable Sky Sports to screen the Usyk rematch on UK pay-per-view.
“We want to see AJ active. There have been too many gaps between fights,” Hearn said. Turning to Joshua, he said: “You’ve had to step up to carry the sport in our country. You never had the easy fights because you wanted to complete a résumé. You wanted to fight the elite.
“I would like to see him get back to enjoying himself, get back to the pressures of working his way back up to the championship belt.” The British fighters Dillian Whyte and Joe Joyce, plus the former WBC world champion Deontay Wilder, are potentially lucrative options. Hearn also paid tribute to Usyk, saying he would have scored the fight 115-113 to the 35-year-old. “He’s too good and there’s no shame in it,” he said.
Asked how the champion would stack up against Fury, he said: “They are both tremendous fighters. I’m not sure anyone can beat Oleksandr Usyk. Tyson Fury’s a clever man. He had the chance to fight him and chose not to. Will he come out of retirement? Good luck to both of them.”