Disappointment amongst sports fans as yet another big fight suffers a knock out blow and falls flat on its face. But less than a week after Leon Edwards outpointed Kamara Usman in their third bout, why is the UFC achieving what boxing cannot?
At the time of writing, the date is the 22nd March, and the much-anticipated Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk fight for the undisputed heavyweight title, has been cancelled.
If we are being honest, boxing fans would be kidding themselves if they ever believed that this fight was nailed on. It has become common rhetoric amongst fans that they will believe a fight is happening when they “see the two fighters in the ring,” and unfortunately, this has become all too true.
In a sport that gathered such a passionate fan base off the back of years of watching fighters push their limits against other top contenders in pursuit of glory, this whole episode appears to be a sorry state not just for the sport, but also for Tyson Fury.
The WBC Heavyweight Champion has been hostile to say the least, in the process of making this bona fide super fight. The holder of one of the four world titles belts at heavyweight stated his outrage that the holder of the other three belts be awarded a 60/40 split (in favour of Fury), demanding instead that Usyk and his team accept a 70/30 split. Despite the astonishingly one-sided demand, Usyk and his team agreed, as long as Fury donated £1 million to Ukraine.
With this agreement in place, it seemed that the fight for the undisputed heavyweight crown was bound to happen. But Fury wasn’t done with his ridiculous requests, as he demanded that the rematch clause, which he had initially pushed for, be removed. As of this morning, Usyk’s manager has declared via talkSPORT that “After Usyk accepted 70/30, Fury started to think he can put a saddle on his neck and start riding Usyk”.
Cleary outraged by his treatment and the insulting contractual demands, Usyk and his team have decided to pull the fight and it’s hard to blame them. It all makes you wonder if Fury had this planned all along…
Despite several Instagram posts claiming to be training for the fight, Sugar Hill Steward, Fury’s trainer, has stated that they never started a camp for the Usyk fight.
Fury’s attitude towards the making of this fight has been nothing short of disgraceful. The disrespect he has shown Usyk, an undefeated, formerly undisputed cruiserweight, current unified heavyweight champion and the pound-for-pound number one fighter in the world, has shone a light on his character and his unwillingness to participate in competitive fights.
It seems that the majority of Fury’s fans are strongly siding with the Ukrainian, as they have become frustrated with Fury’s antics in recent times. Let us not forget the ridiculous terms and time constraints that were laid out in front of Anthony Joshua, which led to that fight falling through.
For a long time, Fury has coined himself as a fighter of the people, but this recent chaos has demonstrated in the clearest of lights that this is far from the truth. Rather than being a ‘people’s fighter,’ Fury has shown himself to be far more of a shrewd businessman, much like Floyd Mayweather, who will put their monetary gain before anything else.
This alone is not a criticism of Fury and certainly does not single him out in the fight game, but what is a criticism is his evidently false rhetoric that he wants to chase legacy and make super-fights for the fans. Instead, Tyson Fury has come to embody everything wrong with modern-day boxing, the prioritisation of money over legacy.
Despite Fury’s depiction of Usyk as a “middleweight”, it appears that Fury is unwilling to fight the Ukrainian without the guarantee of a substantial purse, probably because he is aware of the danger Usyk poses to him.
Fury has a history of struggling with smaller fighters and south paws, Usyk just so happens to be both. While Usyk does not possess the power of a Steve Cunningham and is slightly smaller than Otto Wallin, he is much faster and more skilled than both. In addition, Usyk is used to fighting men much bigger than himself, so Fury’s size advantage will not intimidate him. Whilst I do not think Fury is necessarily afraid of Usyk, he is well aware that he can make as much money fighting lesser opposition.
At the end of the day, the blame does not lie with Fury alone. Boxing has been in this morbid state for years and the reason is undoubtedly the presence of four belts. Money will always be a major part in negotiations for fights, always has and always will, but the presence of four belts allows for the presence of four champions.
The idea of having four champions in itself is absurd and contradictory, meaning fighters don’t feel the need to challenge themselves against tough opposition, as they can merely challenge lesser opponents for their own belt.
While the UFC has an evident problem with its fighter pay, the model of having one champion per division allows for the making of super-fights. Just last week, Leon Edwards solidified his place as one of the greats of British fighting when he outpointed Kamara Usman, taking their three-fight series 2-1. UFC fans will again be treated to a mega-fight in April when Israel Adesanya tries to reclaim his belt against Alex Pereira.
For boxing fans to once again experience the best their sport has to offer, a return to the one or two-belt era would be ideal. But the logistics of this are nigh on impossible.
Unfortunately, if boxing fans want to see super-fights, they may have to scroll back through the archives and watch the clashes between the ‘Four Kings’ or Muhammad Ali’s old fights.
I guess there are worse ways to spend your time.