Bradley’s take: Who has the edge in Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk?


From the 1880s to the present undisputed era, one championship reigned supreme around the heavyweight division: The lineal championship. Today, boxing has evolved into four prestigious sanctioning bodies producing championship belts: WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO. Far removed from the eras of John L. Sullivan and Jack Johnson, the “sweet science” has evolved immensely. A new breed of longer, more robust heavyweights emerging from different parts of the world have arrived. Yet, the competition is still stern, and the glamor of heavyweight boxing remains as fierce as ever.

Today, we stand on the cliffside of witnessing heavyweight boxing history as the undefeated WBC champion Tyson Fury faces undefeated former undisputed cruiserweight champion and current WBA, WBO and IBF titleholder Oleksandr Usyk, Saturday night in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (ESPN+ PPV, noon ET). It will be the first battle for undisputed heavyweight supremacy in the four-belt era. The last heavyweight undisputed title holder was Lennox Lewis over two decades ago (three-belt era). In this upcoming battle, will it be a repeat of the 1915 match between heavyweight champ Johnson and Jesse Willard, where size prevailed? Or will it mirror Jack Dempsey’s electrifying victory over Willard in 1919, showcasing skill over stature?

Fury and Usyk stand at the summit of modern boxing greatness and history, commanding the attention of the entire world with their skills and talent. Let’s look at the matchup and how the fight can play out.

The matchup

Fury (34-0-1, 21 KOs) has revolutionized heavyweight boxing with his size and agile footwork. Under trainer SugarHill Steward’s guidance, he’s evolved into a power puncher sitting down on his shots, blending the Kronk style (great fundamentals, discipline and effective aggression) with precise footwork and deceptive upper body feints to position himself for his lethal combo — a jab that turns into a left hook, paving the way for his right cross.

Fury uses rough house tactics, bludgeoning his opponents while fighting inside, using his size to lean and smother the opponent’s body, all orchestrated to drain their resolve and stamina. Fury even provides a purposeful jab-miss maneuver, seizing control of adversaries’ heads and putting them into a guillotine headlock. The past can quickly be seen in every fighter as Fury shows a blend of Jack Johnson’s cunning, patience, and precise defense forged by Jack Dempsey’s punching power and tenacity.

Usyk, on the other hand, invokes thoughts of Gene Tunney — the “Fighting Marine” who preferred to let his fists talk — away from the business complexities of boxing, focused solely on his legacy. Usyk’s mastery of footwork and positioning is similar to that of stable mate Vasiliy Lomachenko, with his weak side attacks (the left side of right-handed opponents) exploiting orthodox opponents. Usyk uses his size to his advantage, darting in and out of range with various indirect feints, freezing and deceiving more prominent heavyweights, out-positioning them at every level.

The legacies of fighters who gave meaning to the sport and the importance of being called the world’s heavyweight champ have paved the way to this moment.

Boxing Hall of Famers such as the imposing Primo Carnera — the first Italian to claim the heavyweight championship — and Max Baer, who possessed the power to captivate the masses with his wide looping punches and larger-than-life personality, gave meaning to the sport and the importance of being called the heavyweight world champion.

Fury and Usyk are no different. Fury has chosen to tackle one of boxing’s most crafty and complex southpaws in Usyk, who has climbed through the heavyweight ranks with the ease and grace of being the lighter, quicker man.

Breaking down Usyk’s skills

Usyk, an Olympic gold medalist for Ukraine, has always been a boxer with direction, purpose, and discipline. Usyk’s mindset and demeanor are fascinating. He is a master, thoughtful technician who has outthought and outfought one of this generation’s best heavyweights Anthony Joshua — twice — with a cerebral approach to the game. Boxing is not just about the physical — it is a mental chess match in and out of the ring, with each fighter looking to impose their will and skills upon the other. Usyk stands as one of the most complete fighters in the world, bringing a southpaw technical prowess that is second to none.

Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs) is known for his consistent high-intensity approach in the ring, characterized by an active lead hand and a barrage of feints supported by a rhythmic pendulum bounce to move swiftly in and out of range. He uses re-slips and level changes to gather information on the fundamental tendencies of his opponents. At 6-foot-3, his adaptability is crucial in overcoming significant reach disparities. For instance, against the 6-9 Fury, Usyk faces a seven-inch reach deficit, 85 to 78. Despite being shorter, Usyk has evolved a unique jabbing technique like a gopher suddenly emerging from its hole. This allows him to exploit openings beneath his taller opponents’ guards, delivering sharp, upward jabs between the seam of both guards.

Usyk’s fighting style is dynamic and can appear chaotic. He uses erratic movements and deceptive tactics to disorient his opponents and gain an advantage. Usyk’s adaptability, hand speed and footwork will be crucial against Fury, who has a sizable upper torso, which provides a significant amount of surface area to be hit and has defensive weaknesses that have long been masked by his height and reach advantages.

How can Usyk win?

Usyk should focus on attacking Fury’s body with precise jabs and straight left hands, building up to two and three-punch combinations. His primary objective will be to close the distance, exploiting Fury’s fundamental defensive lapses. More critically, Usyk must navigate Fury’s masterful use of feints, which can disrupt timing and complicate his aggressive approach.

Feints are a specialty to Fury’s game, designed to force a specific reaction from an opponent, thereby creating openings for attacks. These could pose a significant challenge for Usyk, potentially slowing his assault and complicating his game plan. Like Lomachenko, Usyk tends to reduce his offensive output when pushed back by aggressive opponents. His offensive options become limited when he cannot find advantageous angles against fighters. However, in terms of stamina and technical skills, Usyk matches, if not surpasses, Fury. But focusing less on Fury’s feints and more on exploiting his defensive gaps, Usyk stands more than a good chance of securing a victory.

How can Fury win?

Fury is two years younger, but reflecting on both fighters’ boxing careers, Usyk is the fresher fighter. Fury is a mastermind, born with a basketball player’s attributes, a WWE wrestler persona and a wingspan longer than my dining room kitchen table.

His adaptability, size and heart have already been displayed in three fights against Deontay Wilder, where Fury had to get up from the canvas four times. Fury will fight for his life if things get rough and all else fails. Skills-wise, he has more abilities than Usyk. This is a fact, not an opinion. How he applies his application is a different story. Fury is shifty on his feet, creating a complex presentation for even the most dynamic boxers. He can box, brawl, and fight from any stance position. He uses a long guard to create a barrier between himself and smaller opponents, manipulating their balance.

He is unafraid of any man, even Wilder, who can punch through a wall. Fury is brave enough to follow a puncher around the ring, giving up his height to torch them on the inside with well-placed body shots. Once Fury understands a fighter’s weakness, he likely exploits it. Usyk, without question, is weak in the body. Whether you thought the punch from Daniel Dubois strayed low, it didn’t. It was a body shot.

If Fury can sustain a high pace, mentally and physically, he can win with flying colors. He’ll have to keep and control his distance with his feints, solid jabs, and head controls. Plus, he’ll need to utilize body locks or inside under hooks to disarm Usyk’s offense and weak side attacks, all while pressing Usyk onto his back foot, forcing him to reset his feet and momentarily deactivating his assaults. Fury has multiple ways of beating Usyk, while Usyk typically relies on one.

Who wins?

We can factor in other variables: inactivity, recent performances, training with a new fight date, etc. But my pick philosophy is simple — you don’t bet against Fury. Fury by decision.

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