Oleksandr Usyk beats Tyson Fury to be undisputed world heavyweight champion in Riyadh

 TYSON FURY’S unbeaten record was ground to dust in the Saudi desert.

Ukrainian warrior Oleksandr Usyk outpointed Fury to become the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the world since Lennox Lewis a quarter of a century ago.

Oleksandr Usyk became the first man to beat Tyson Fury
Oleksandr Usyk became the first man to beat Tyson FuryCredit: PA
Usyk celebrates his famous victory
Usyk celebrates his famous victoryCredit: Getty
Fury believed he won the fight
Fury believed he won the fightCredit: Reuters

Usyk is three stones lighter and seven inches shorter than Britain’s Gypsy King but this toughest of cookies proved that a good little ‘un can defeat a good big ‘un, contrary to boxing’s oldest adage.

Especially when the smaller man possesses a heart the size of Usyk’s.

A compelling, high-class contest was neck-and-neck until the end of the ninth round when Usyk landed a crushing left hook which turned Fury’s legs to custard and left him facing a standing count.

The judges gave it to Usyk on a split decision, yet it ought to have been unanimous.

It was a first defeat in 36 professional bouts for Fury - who started off showboating, then began to dominate but was finally battered into near submission by Usyk’s extraordinary counter-attack.

And so Fury surrenders his WBC belt to Usyk - although this was such a brilliant battle that a scheduled rematch later this year will hold extreme intrigue.

Riyadh might be the polar opposite to Las Vegas but the Saudi capital is now the undisputed fight capital of the world - and so a decent number of Brits had made it over for a dry weekend in the Middle East.

The pre-match build-up was much the same as it would have been anywhere - headbutting, argy-bargy, trash-talking, and God-thanking.

Although there were also millions of tributes paid to ‘His Excellency Turki Alalshikh’, the key player in the sports washing Saudification of elite boxing.

Should such a historic fight have been held in a nation with no tradition and little interest in the sport?

Probably not. The counter-argument is that without the obscene wealth the Saudis are willing to lavish on fighters, such elite unification contests might never happen.

There had been widespread talk of Fury’s powers waning.

Emotional Oleksandr Usyk IN TEARS as he pays tribute to his father after beating Tyson Fury

A controversial win over UFC fighter Francis Ngannou late last year was followed by a serious cut sustained in a sparring session which saw this bout moved from its original February date.

But Fury has been doubted far more gravely in the past, when his physical and mental health collapsed, along with a failed drug test, after he dethroned Wladimir Klitschko back in 2015.

He had never previously lacked sharpness for his most serious tests.

Usyk had become a professional Brit-slayer in recent years, having seen off Tony Bellew, Derek Chisora, and Daniel Dubois as well as his two victories over Anthony Joshua.

Usyk lands the big left hand on Fury
Usyk lands the big left hand on FuryCredit: PA
Fury was left tottering backwards
Fury was left tottering backwardsCredit: Getty
Usyk was on the verge of a stoppage victory
Usyk was on the verge of a stoppage victoryCredit: PA

For all the love for resurgent AJ... these

But this was always going to be the defining fight of his career. A former unified world cruiserweight champion, he was here in just his 22nd professional fight, looking to claim the undisputed king of the big-boy division.

There were Saudi-based luminaries such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and Steven Gerrard in attendance, as well as several legends of the fight game including Joshua, Klitschko, Lewis, and Evander Holyfield, the man he had defeated to become the undisputed champion in 1999.

The pre-fight atmosphere was better than usual for a Saudi-based fight but not a patch on a sold-out Wembley, the lack of intoxicating liquid never helped matters.

After a lengthy undercard and a rap concert, a stony-faced Usyk strode out first in traditional Ukrainian dress, complete with a feather in his fur-lined hat.

Then Fury, dancing and shadow-boxing to Barry White and Bonnie Tyler in one of his lower-key ring walks.

Then after Michael Buffer had readied us for the rumble, Fury was straight into showboating mode, bobbing his head manically from side to side in the corner, Usyk sticking his tongue out in retaliation.

Those sort of histrionics might unsettle many opponents but Usyk is ice-cool and unflappable.

The Ukrainian landed the best punch of the opener with a powerful left hook.

In the second, Fury was more business-like, scoring with a couple of telling body shots, though Usyk was also enjoying some success.

The ham-acting was back in the fourth - Fury lowering his guard, then raising his arms, but also landing some decent shots and settling into his rhythm to win the round.

Fury was beginning to combine flamboyance with vehemence to good effect - that eccentric jitterbugging gait of his and those debilitating shots to the body.

Twice in the sixth round, Fury connected with vicious uppercuts which rocked back the smaller man. Then after more showboating in the corner, he leapt straight back into attack.

At halfway to the full distance, the Brit was establishing dominance.

Yet Usyk showed the heart of a champion in the seventh, Fury was forced to take a couple of thumping headshots, then an impressive one-two just before the bell.

Fury began the eighth with a stunning combination of his own but the Ukrainian responded in kind in a proper slug-fest.

At the end of the ninth, Usyk scored with a cracking left hook which sent Fury sprawling onto the ropes, followed swiftly by a right which left his legs wobbling.

Soon the Brit was taking a standing count from ref Mark Nelson.

Fury was in serious strife, clinging for dear life, and could not land the knock-out blow he must have known he needed as the minutes counted down.

Fury's nose was covered in blood
Fury's nose was covered in bloodCredit: Reuters
Both boxers embrace post-fight
Both boxers embrace post-fightCredit: Getty
A rematch is already eyed for October
A rematch is already eyed for OctoberCredit: Getty

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