WROCLAW, Poland — After a controversial win to retain his heavyweight boxing titles, Oleksandr Usyk had a message for Tyson Fury.
“I’m ready tomorrow,” the Ukrainian said on Saturday when asked about a long-awaited and elusive unification bout with Fury.
This was after Usyk stopped British challenger Daniel Dubois in the ninth round. The victory followed a contested low blow that gave the Ukrainian champion time to recover.
Fighting for the first time in over a year and cheered on by supporters waving Ukrainian flags, Usyk knocked Dubois down in the eighth round. Referee Luis Pabon stopped the fight when Usyk dropped him again in the ninth with a stiff right to the jaw.
The fight was halted in the fifth round due to a low kick from Dubois that sent Usyk to the canvas, where he sat against the ropes. Replays showed the punch slamming around Usyk’s belt. It was not given as a knockdown, but no points were deducted from Dubois, and Pabon urged Usyk: “Take your time. »
The Ukrainian seemed to lack a bit of his usual speed as Dubois continued to target the body, but he recovered to knock Dubois down twice for the win.
Dubois said he was “cheated out of the win tonight” because of the low blow. His promoter Frank Warren suggested there might be a rematch. Asked about the incident, Usyk replied: “Boxing is a difficult sport, isn’t it? But I’m fine. He added that he respects his opponent “but it’s boxing, it’s not ballet”.
Usyk remained unbeaten at 21-0 after his second defense of the WBA, IBF and WBO belts he took from Anthony Joshua in 2021 and held after a rematch a year later.
Dubois’ record dropped to 19-2.
It was only Usyk’s fifth career fight at heavyweight and his fourth in a row against British boxers.
It was mostly an internal fight for Usyk in Poland, a country neighboring Ukraine and home to many Ukrainians who have left the country since the Russian invasion last year. A message was broadcast from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, which compared Usyk’s strength to that of the Ukrainian people and compared Dubois to the country’s friends abroad.
Usyk himself is from Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014. After the fight, he said he was “grateful for my country and for (the) Ukrainian army”, to the cheers of the 40,000 supporters present in the football stadium.
The win could mean another push for a unification bout with WBC titleholder Fury, to crown the heavyweight division’s first undisputed champion since 2000. Talks to stage that fight fell through this year, prompting Usyk to take on Dubois, the WBA’s mandatory challenger.
Fury will contest a non-title boxing match with former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia in October. Another Usyk opponent could be undefeated Croatian Filip Hrgović, IBF mandatory challenger. Usyk seemed less excited about a possible clash with Hrgović than a fight with Fury, saying that would be his promoter and manager’s business and that he needed a rest. “I’m going to drink sparkling water,” he said.
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