Tyson Fury’s heavyweight unification showdown with Oleksandr Usyk is now unlikely to take place on December 23 after Francis Ngannou forced a change of plan with his stunning performance in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night.
Usyk was ringside for Fury’s unconvincing split-decision victory over ex-UFC champion Ngannou in Riyadh and the Ukrainian appeared to confirm their meeting for all four heavyweight belts on 23 December in Saudi Arabia.
But Ngannou’s unexpected performance has led to change of plan. The MMA star shockingly went the distance in his boxing debut, even knocking down reigning WBC heavyweight champion at one point.
While Fury remained undefeated, edging the contest on the scorecards, the 35-year-old was bruised by Ngannou’s display and is now set to take time off rather than hurrying into another camp in order to make the December 23 date.
Even though contracts are believed to have been signed for a December, the fight now appears more likely to take place in January or February.
Fury’s promoter Warren said ringside: “I don’t think the date will be announced just yet. This fight is on. Both fighters want it. Tyson’s got a cut [above his eye]. We’ll see how it heals.
“It’s the biggest fight in boxing. Everybody wants to see it. They’ll see it in Saudi, it’ll break all box-office records.”
Afterwards Usyk, who owns the other three global heavyweight belts, turned attention to their showdown, saying: “It’s a big fight. The whole world wants this fight. We’re back in this ring, 23 December, thank you very much, I go to sleep.”
Fury said: “It’s been going on a long time, let’s do the fight, over here, for all the belts, the undisputed title of the world. Listen, it’s not up to me, we’d go now. These guys will sort it out, it’ll be my next fight guaranteed.”
Fury had previously criticised the timing of an initial announcement of his fight with Usyk, which came out during his preparations for Ngannou.
“It wasn’t my choice,” the Briton, 35, said on The MMA Hour on Wednesday 25 October. “I would never in a million years do that, but the people who are putting these fights on, who are paying the money, they’re in control. They’re the promoters of the event.
“So, the paymaster does what the paymaster wants, basically. But if it was up to me, I would have never, ever, ever done that, ever. Because I never count chickens before they hatch, ever [...] They should never announce fights before the first one happens, because that’s how people get knocked out.
“But I’m not even looking at the next fight. I’m only concentrating on Francis. If it means breaking these two hands and getting a cut right through [my eyebrow] to win, I will do it. Don’t worry about that. Nothing else matters, only Saturday night.
“I wasn’t happy at first, for them to announce it, but there was a lot going on in the background. For me, I don’t concentrate on any other fight other than Saturday night. What happens in the future stays in the future.
“I’m living for today and this moment. My moment now is to fight Francis for the ‘baddest man on the planet’ title, and when I’ve won that, only after I’ve won that, I won’t even think about my next [fight] until I’ve had a week off and spent some time with my family. I’ve been in camp 12 weeks.”