London, Las Vegas, Dubai (11/5 – 41)
Boxing fans need to be patient if they wish to witness the emergence of a new undisputed World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, a title missing for a quarter of a century. The last undisputed heavyweight boxing champion was Lennox Lewis, who won all belts back in 2000. That means the last undisputed champion was still in the WBC-WBA-IBF era (1983-2007).
While the new “WBA-WBA-IBF-WBO era”, dating from 2007, has seen no undisputed heavyweight boxing champion, some came close to achieving it.
Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko held the WBA (Super)-IBF-WBO belts from 2011-2015. His successor, Tyson Fury, managed to reign for around a year – but missed seizing the WBC belt. Tragic doping cases led Fury to vacate those titles in 2016.
Also, in a span from 2019-2021, Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. nearly became “undisputed champions” with the same titles: WBA (Super)-IBF-WBO.
More recently, there was fervent hope that boxing fans would finally be able to see an undisputed champion, as on 22 February 2020, Tyson Fury took the WBC title, with a knock-out win over previous champion Deontay Wilder.
A year and a half later, on 25 September 2021, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, Oleksandr Usyk, the mandatory WBO challenger, delivered an upset win, outboxing and defeating Anthony Joshua to claim a unanimous decision victory, thus taking the WBA (Super), IBF and WBO belts. All that needed to be done next was to arrange a Fury-Usyk match.
The winner would be awarded WBC, WBA, IBF, and WBO titles, to become the first undisputed heavyweight boxing champion in the new era. Fury, nicknamed The “Gypsy King”, looked nailed on to face off with Usyk on 29 April 2023, in what would have been the first undisputed showdown since Lennox Lewis stood against Evander Holyfield in 1999.
While there were reports that Usyk had already conceded a 30/70 payout split in Fury’s favor, neither side agreed to sign a contract – one including a potential rematch clause – and the two camps thus walked away from any deal.
“We’re waiting on a contract and, so far, there seems to be no desire from Team Fury to make this fight happen,” complained Sergey Lapin from Usyk’s team, as quoted in Boxing-Social. “Oleksandr declared from the very beginning that he’ll fight Fury, at any time and any place. But it seems to me that Tyson Fury sees Usyk as far too much of a risk.”
On the other hand, Tyson Fury accused Oleksandr Usyk of “running”.
“You were never man enough to tangle with The Gypsy King, ever in your life.” Fury and Usyk now face an open schedule for their next fight.
There is a galaxy of potential opponents, such as Daniel Dubois, the WBA regular champion; Zhang Zhilei, WBO interim champion; or even Deontay Wilder, Filip Hrgovic, or Andy Ruiz Jr. as the number one challenger from WBA-WBA, IBF, and WBO, respectively. It looks like the direction of the undisputed heavyweight championship fight is once more in limbo.
Boxing fans will thus have to be patient a little longer, if they want to finally witness an undisputed heavyweight title bout. “Welcome to boxing, boys. Is it shocking? Yes. Is it ‘shocking’? No,” cracked UFC President Dana White, clearly annoyed as he slammed both Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk for their inability to schedule a heavyweight title unification fight.
“It’s just that in boxing, that’s the way that that sport always seems to play out: big fights that should happen never seem to happen. When they do, it’s always too late.”