Tyson Fury has been forced to postpone his unification fight with Oleksandr Usyk after the British heavyweight suffered a “freak cut” above his eye during a sparring session in Riyadh, Queensberry Promotions announced Friday.
Fury’s World Boxing Council title and Ukrainian fighter Usyk’s World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organisation belts were all set to be up for grabs in Saudi Arabia on February 17.
Instead, the wait to find heavyweight boxing’s first undisputed champion since Lennox Lewis in 2000 has been delayed just 15 days before the eagerly-anticipated bout was due to take place.
“I am absolutely devastated after preparing for this fight for so long and being in such superb condition,” said the undefeated Fury in a statement.
“I feel bad for everyone involved in this huge event and I will work diligently towards the rescheduled date once the eye has healed,” added Fury, who boasts a professional record of 34 wins and one draw.
“I can only apologise to everyone affected.”
Queensberry said the cut, above Fury’s right eye, “required urgent medical attention and significant stitching”, with the promoters posting an image of the damage done to his face on their X account (formerly Twitter).
The 35-year-old Fury added on Instagram: “Can’t help getting injured in sparring but what I can say was Usyk was in trouble. I am in fantastic shape.
“I will reschedule soon as I can. 2024 a massive year for team GK (Gypsy King, Fury’s nickname).”
– ‘Historic event’ –
Fury was coming into the bout with the well-regarded Usyk after a controversial split-decision win over former mixed martial arts champion Francis Ngannou, who was making his boxing debut, in October.
But many ringside observers were convinced Fury would be nowhere near as complacent against former undisputed cruiserweight champion Usyk (21-0, 14 knockouts).
Fury had been aiming to match the achievement of fellow British heavyweight Lewis, who defeated Evander Holyfield 25 years ago to win the WBC, WBA, and IBF titles at a time when the WBO were not yet regarded as a major sanctioning body.
A Queensberry spokesperson added: “It is clearly a massive disappointment, after the work that has been done by so many people to finally deliver this historic event to the world.
“Once the doctors have appraised Tyson’s eye, we will have a better idea of the period of recovery needed. Once known we will work diligently with all the stake-holders and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to reschedule this fight as soon as possible.”
Friday’s postponement has left heavyweight boxing in a state of suspended animation as far as key belts are concerned.
The March 8 non-title fight between Ngannou and Britain’s former world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, also set to take place in Saudi Arabia, could now be staged ahead of a Fury-Usyk bout.
Joshua, twice defeated by Usyk, will be aiming to back-up his commanding stoppage-win over Sweden’s Otto Wallin in December as he continues his quest to become a three-time world champion.
Fury and Joshua have yet to fight each other.