Ukraine’s Usyk beat UK’s’s Fury by split decision to become the first unifying title fighter since 1999.

Oleksandr Usyk beat Tyson Fury by scoring a razor-thin split decision to win the world’s first undisputed heavyweight championship in 25 years, an unprecedented feat in boxing’s four-belt era.

The United Kingdom’s Fury was the early aggressor but Usyk gradually took charge and the “Gypsy King” was saved by the bell in the ninth round before slumping to his first career defeat on Sunday.

Ukraine’s Usyk joins the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Mike Tyson as the undisputed heavyweight champion, the first since boxing recognised four major belts in the 2000s.

With the win, the former undisputed cruiserweight champion can legitimately claim to be the best of this era, although a rematch expected in October could provide another twist.

Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk [Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters]
Oleksandr Usyk celebrates with the belts after winning the fight to become the undisputed heavyweight world champion [Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters]

The UK’s Lennox Lewis was the last man to unify the heavyweight belts – three at the time – after beating Evander Holyfield in 1999.

Usyk got the better of the opening rounds before Fury hit his stride in the fourth, engaging in some showmanship as he started to catch Usyk with vicious body shots, but the Ukrainian battled back with several stinging reminders of his power.

Usyk turned the tide in the eighth round and few would have been surprised had the referee stopped the fight in the ninth as the Ukrainian’s powerful punches to the head left Fury reeling.

The previously undefeated Briton managed to hang on until the bell but he struggled through the final three rounds of the fight as Usyk chased him down to edge him out on the judges’ scorecards.

“Thank you so much. … It’s a big opportunity for me, for my family, for my country. … It’s a great time, it’s a great day,” a tearful Usyk said in a post-fight interview in the ring, adding that he would grant Fury an immediate rematch.

In the co-main event, Australia’s Jai Opetaia won a unanimous decision over Mairis Briedis of Latvia to win the vacant IBF cruiserweight title. Meanwhile, Ireland’s Anthony Cacace scored a TKO win over Joe Cordina of Wales to retain his IBO super-featherweight title and claim the IBF belt.

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