AS A fighter – an elite one at that – no matter how much good will you build with fans, the moment you advocate for yourself or, god forbid, ask for a bit of time to get your body in the right place you’ll be quickly branded a time-waster, someone not willing to fight. That’s what has happened to Oleksandr Usyk, a man who unified both the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions almost exclusively on the road.
It was revealed in recent weeks that he and Tyson Fury have, finally, signed on the dotted line to face each other in what would be the most meaningful heavyweight contest in decades. There were murmurs that December 23 was the targeted date, though this was never made official. This past week, Usyk uploaded a video to his YouTube channel in which he provided an update on his own fitness and what sort of timeline he hopes to be working on.
“I can’t say that everything’s OK, but I’m fine,” he said. “Some wounds, old injuries need to be healed. Everything’s under control.
“I do my training sessions everyday, but I need 14 weeks for my camp. It would be enough time for me.
“The first weeks I’m doing my work that helps me to get ready for the training camp. Then I’m working hard for the next 12 weeks.”
If Usyk is allowed such time, the fight with Fury would take place in late January at the earliest. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But plenty of fans have taken to Reddit, X (formerly known as Twitter) and other public forums to vent their frustration at what they deem to be delaying tactics from Usyk.
A common notion being flung around is something along the lines of “imagine if Fury was the one asking for this,” insinuating that the Brit would be vilified for it and that Usyk should be as well. Others have even gone so far as to claim this is evidence of a pattern of Usyk doing whatever he can to delay or even outright avoid a fight with Fury. Which, of course, is nonsense.
Earlier in the year, when talks for Fury-Usyk broke down, it was Fury who bore the brunt of the blame and became Public Enemy Number One with boxing fans. Now, after simply stating he needs a few more weeks than expected to get himself fully ready for the fight, Usyk is facing the same furore. It’s likely that those complaining, as is often the case, are just a vocal minority but it’s unfair that these athletes, who put their bodies on the line time and again for our entertainment, are lambasted when putting their health first.
As he alluded to in his video, Usyk is clearly carrying some niggles and injuries. Why on earth would any serious boxing fan want him to ignore those and enter the training camp for the biggest fight of his career in a compromised state? If he needs 14 weeks to be at his absolute best, give him 14 weeks. As with any major fight, you want both combatants to be in the best possible shape they can.
You only need to look at what happened in the UFC this past weekend to see how a lack of preparation can dramatically impact a fight. Alex Volkanovski stepped in on 12 days’ notice to fight Islam Makhachev, in what would be a rematch of their fight earlier in the year. Their first meeting was a very close affair that Makhachev won on points. This time around, Volkanovski was separated from his senses by a head kick in the first round before a series of punches finished the fight.
Volkanovski’s non-existent training camp is not the sole reason for his loss, it’s likely he wouldn’t have beaten Makhachev even with a full one, but it undoubtedly played a significant role in the brutal way he was dispatched.
That’s a more extreme example, given that Usyk wouldn’t be fighting Fury on such short notice, but it’s still worth paying attention to. There was plenty of discussion around Makhachev-Volkanovski II about how disappointing it was that the rematch, which was always called for given how competitive their first fight was, would be taking place under such circumstances, with one fighter at a clear disadvantage.
If we’re getting Fury-Usyk, we want the best possible version of it. With Fury fighting Francis Ngannou this weekend, a December date with Usyk wouldn’t have been ideal for him either. Fury has even said that he will have had a 12-week camp for Ngannou, a literal debutant. Usyk needing two weeks more than that to prepare for Fury is really not a big deal.
Fury made that comment about a 12-week camp during a head-to-head interview with Ngannou posted by TNT Sports, who are airing the fight this weekend. The sit-down was filmed back when Francis flew to the UK for the opening press conference five or so weeks ago. In terms of what was said, there’s really not much to delve into – this is a complete mismatch, after all – but it is interesting to see how different Fury looked physically back then.
Although it was just over a month ago, he is noticeably larger and more out of shape. When he popped up in Manchester recently for his brother Tommy’s dance-around with KSI, Tyson looked leaner and healthier in the face. This isn’t of much relevance for the Ngannou fight, because Fury could have taken it on 12 [i]days’[i] notice and still splattered the former UFC star, but it is important in the wider context of the Usyk fight. Not only is it important for Fury to be in elite shape for that, but he also needs to be sure to move past Ngannou without any cuts or injuries in order to avoid jeopardising the bout with Usyk.
Boxing on the Box
Amanda Serrano-Danila Ramos
Coverage begins at 2am
Tyson Fury-Francis Ngannou
TNT Sports Box Office
Coverage begins at 6pm
O’Shaquie Foster-Eduardo Hernandez
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