The highly anticipated undisputed heavyweight championship between Ukraine’s Usyk, the WBO, WBA, IBF, IBO champion and WBC titlist Tyson Fury, set for Feb. 17 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was derailed a few days ago after it was revealed that Fury suffered a serious cut, allegedly during a sparring session. A press release by Fury’s promoter, Queensberry, was accompanied by a photo of Fury with a deep cut over his right eye. Fury suffered a similar injury in the same area several years ago during his bout with Otto Wallin.
Organizers quickly rescheduled the fight to May 18, in Riyadh. The new date was announced during a video interview on The MMA Hour by Saudi Arabia power broker Turki Alalshikh, whose General Entertainment Authority has been responsible for scheduling a slew of high-profile boxing matches stretching back to last October, when Fury fought Francis Ngannou. A stitched-up Fury sat next to Alalshikh in the video. Alexander Krassyuk, Usyk’s promoter, did not doubt that Fury suffered a cut. But he did raise some questions regarding the legitimacy of some of the other alleged pieces of evidence circulating on social media. One was a widely-shared sparring video in which Fury is seen eating a left uppercut. After the blow lands, Fury paws at his right eye and walks to his corner. Another was a picture Fury posted on social media to play up his relatively trim physique; it shows him flexing and wearing nothing but underwear (Fury has had weight issues in some of his past fights)—an attempt to discourage rumors that he purposely sabotaged the fight because he was not in shape. ‘I did see this video,” Krassyuk told Boxing News. “It’s not a convincing video, together with the picture of Tyson that he is in good shape. Very slim. People find this picture to be made three years ago. I did not explore it myself. But that’s what people said to me on Instagram. There’s another picture with him and [promoter] Dmitry Salita in the ring, same underwear. But who knows? Maybe Tyson has been wearing his underwear for three or four years. You never know. “The fact is that you cannot trust this video. And the video itself does not prove anything. The picture of the cut, yeah, it shows us the fact. The cut is severe. But getting punched in a gear by an uppercut and get cut? No way. There is an elbow. But how the hell can an elbow get inside after an uppercut? What should be done? And when someone is screaming—why would they scream? Did they see blood? OK, if they saw the blood, why wouldn’t the blood appear on the gloves when he was wiping his eye. Too many questions. This video is not convincing. The convincing thing is the medical report and the statement that he got cut.”
Krassyuk mentioned Fury’s medical report was corroborated by the Saudis. “This was confirmed by our Saudi partners,” Krassyuk said. “They got the medical report and the medical report claims he would need two, three months to recover.” Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.