IT could have been beautiful. They could have even been happy.
Instead, heavyweights Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury suffered a bout of cold feet, failed to show at the church, and spent the next few weeks both drowning their sorrows and finding warmth in whatever sad, sagging flesh they could find. Now, as expected, and many months on from when they last spoke, the pair are returning to the world with new partners on their arms, neither of whom would appear, on the face of it, to be their usual type.
On August 26, in Wrocław, Poland, Usyk will attempt to manipulate and in turn educate the much younger Daniel Dubois, a 25-year-old novice with a token belt, while Fury, on October 28 in Saudi Arabia, will have a fumble in the desert with Francis Ngannou, a 36-year-old mixed martial artist who will be relieved not to have to worry about takedown defence but remains a complete boxing neophyte all the same. (So unrefined is Ngannou in boxing, in fact, he makes Dubois look like Larry Holmes.)
Of the two fights, Usyk vs. Dubois is by far the easier to understand. It is, for one, an actual boxing match between two boxers, which helps. It is also a fight between Usyk and a man in Dubois who, although raw and still very much learning, possesses punch power in abundance and is, at 6’5 and 240 pounds, a certified lump of a heavyweight. He has, it’s true, found his WBA “regular” title to be both a blessing and a curse, but this is a fight, according to the rules of the WBA, he apparently deserves and is due. In that sense, then, he is doing nothing wrong in accepting it and going through with it on August 26. In fact, when so many boxers look to shirk dangerous fights these days in favour of self-preservation, Dubois should be praised for this show of bravery rather than criticised for it. That he is seemingly too inexperienced to have a chance of winning the fight is neither here nor there as far as he is concerned. Unlike his critics, he won’t think in those terms. Moreover, he is young enough to learn from whatever lessons he may be taught in Poland and come again, perhaps then timing his second title run better.
That’s if he even falls short, of course. Such is boxing, and especially heavyweight boxing, there is every possibility Dubois could make a mockery of our fears for him next month and achieve the unthinkable by dethroning Usyk, 20-0 (13). Stranger things have happened, of that there is no question.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity and I’m ready to take it with both hands,” Dubois said at a press conference to announce the fight on Monday (July 10). “This has been a long time coming and I’m ready to take it on. Usyk has been a great champion, but everything with a beginning has an end. I’m ready.”
For Usyk, meanwhile, the prospect of fighting someone like Dubois in Poland represents a break from the norm. Whereas in his two previous fights against Anthony Joshua, Usyk would have felt very much as though he was boxing out of the away corner, and in foreign territory, here he is presented with a home fixture – well, almost – in every sense. Finally, it seems that after years of globetrotting and having to silence crowds and defy the odds, Usyk has things on his terms going into a fight.
“We’re not overlooking Daniel Dubois,” said Usyk’s manager, Egis Klimas, “and don’t think we think it’s going to be a walk in the park. We know he’s big, he’s strong, he can punch, and we are preparing 100 per cent for it.
“We have a future to unify titles. This fight is going to bring us to one of the biggest fights in the history of boxing. But we’re not overlooking (him). All we see is Daniel Dubois. We eat breakfast, we think about Daniel Dubois. We go to bed, we think about Daniel Dubois. Everything is just about him. August 26, my man (Usyk) is going to show them.”
If nothing else, at least it sounds as if Usyk is aware of the insignificance of this fight in the grand scheme of things. That’s not to say Dubois can’t make himself significant on August 26, but certainly, for the time being, it is hard to ignore the feeling that Usyk vs. Dubois is a fight to simply get out of the way rather than savour.
Much of the reason for this feeling, of course, has to do with Usyk and Fury’s complete inability to confront the reality of a short career and understand the concept of a small window of opportunity. Had either of them been more cognisant of those two things, the fight between them would be ready to go now or, if not now, perhaps in the autumn or winter. As it happens, not only is Usyk going to now be busy in August, but Fury, too, has a fight lined up for late October, meaning he is as good as done in terms of his business this year (business meaning a single outing, by the way).
It was announced just today, in fact, having been rumoured for weeks, that Fury, 33-0-1 (24), will compete in a boxing match against Francis Ngannou, a mixed martial artist best known for dethroning Stipe Miocic to win the UFC heavyweight title in 2021. This fight, which will take place “in a regulation boxing ring under the official rules of professional boxing, with three judges ringside adopting the 10-point must system” is, much like Fury’s last one against Derek Chisora, a fight nobody asked for or, for that matter, needs to see. It is, however, going to take place regardless and does so because both fighters stand to make an inordinate amount of money from it.
What is more, they are, according to a press release, “promising to meet in the middle of the ring, go to war and win by knockout in devastating fashion.”
How lucky we are, then.
Supposedly it has all come about, this fight on October 28, due to an agreement being reached with Queensberry, Top Rank and Ngannou’s promotional banner, GIMIK Fight Promotions, to partner with Riyadh Season to host the event. But those are all just words, of course. The real reason the fight is happening in October is because, without any repercussions or danger, it can.
Fury, a master in the art of attracting attention and spinning a yarn, knows exactly what he is doing with this one. This is, after all, not his first circus event. Not only that, in a world of clowns it is hard to now blame Fury, who turns 35 next month, for wanting to be the wealthiest of the clowns.
Indeed, if it’s anyone’s, the responsibility to get serious in this instance lies squarely with boxing and, specifically, the WBC, the single sanctioning body who call Tyson Fury their heavyweight champion. It is they who must now remove their red noses, wipe away the face paint, and step over the elephant shit in order to guide the juggling unicyclist that is the heavyweight division back on course. Until then, we can only watch him wobble and, with bated breath, expect the worst.