This Saturday, Oleksandr Usyk puts his IBF, WBO and WBA heavyweight titles on the line in his crunch rematch with Anthony Joshua, live and exclusive on Sky Sports Box Office.
But there is a missing piece of the heavyweight puzzle. Tyson Fury is the third leading figure in the division. Whatever the outcome this weekend, the calls for Fury to face the Usyk-Joshua winner will only increase.
Fury holds the WBC heavyweight title. The mercurial man from Morecambe, though, is unpredictable. In the last fortnight he has declared he wanted to fight Derek Chisora, floated a change of trainer and re-announced his retirement, while his US promoter Bob Arum remains keen to match him against Saturday night’s victor.
Fury’s next move might be hard to call, but it is safe to say the WBC titlist will be a difficult man to beat. He is 6ft 9ins tall with an instinctive feel for the rhythm and vagaries of a fight. He knows how to use his size and most importantly he knows how to win. He has defeated Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder (twice) and never lost in 33 professional fights.
Usyk, however, is another unbeaten heavyweight champion. He dazzled in his victory over Joshua last year and he could be the man to topple Fury.
In the view of boxing expert and former world title challenger Matthew Macklin, Fury has never faced an opponent with Usyk’s skillset.
“I think Usyk definitely brings a set of problems for Fury that he hasn’t seen off anyone else, that no one else brings to the table,” Macklin told Sky Sports.
“I think pretty much everyone Fury’s boxed, he’s the better boxer and he’s got the better ring IQ. He’s smart and he’s got the physical attributes.
“But I think with Usyk’s boxing ability and ring smarts, he’ll have met his match there. Also, the fact that Usyk is smaller, lighter, more mobile, I wonder if that could advantage him in some areas.
“[Fury] is the man to beat but Usyk definitely brings a different set of problems to the fight for Fury to solve.”
Olympic medallist Tony Jeffries can see an edge the Ukrainian would have against Fury.
“Usyk versus Fury would be a very interesting fight,” he told Sky Sports. “I could also see Usyk coming out on top of that. I hope it happens.”
“I think Fury’s advantage over just about everyone he’s fought apart from his size is he’s too fast for them.
“He has never been in with someone with the speed of Usyk, whereas Usyk has boxed many people faster than Fury and maybe as big too.”
Another crucial aspect in a bout with Fury is the psychological battleground. Trainer Dave Coldwell, who cornered Tony Bellew when he fought Usyk in 2018, pointed out: “I think a big part of Fury’s big wins in the marquee fights that he’s had is where he’s got into his opponent’s head, pretty much like Usyk does. Where he gets the opponent to focus that much on what Tyson Fury is going to do that they don’t think about what they’re doing.
“Usyk’s quite like that, where he gets into your head. He gives you that much of a bigger picture, you stop doing what you set out to do, what your game plan was.
“I think Usyk’s got the mentality and ring IQ to beat Fury. The fact that Fury couldn’t get into Usyk’s head, I think would get into Fury’s head.”
The problem anyone faces when trying to fight Fury is his size, which would be especially difficult for a small heavyweight like Usyk.
“Tyson Fury is just a bit of a giant,” Coldwell said. “Not just the size difference, it’s that Fury is that good at knowing how to use his size. In so many different styles, he can do it coming forward, he can do it going backwards, he can smother you, tie you up, lean on you, which is massive for a big man.
“Someone like Usyk, he’s the perfect size to maul and lean all over, take that sharpness away from Usyk, which is massive.”
What Usyk would have to do is target Fury’s trunk. “Fury does make mistakes but go to that body. It’s a big target. A more obvious target, a target where you’re not going to be reaching as much,” Coldwell said.
“Because the problem is when you’re trying to close that distance so much, against such a big reach advantage, you end up reaching. You’re reaching, you fall off balance, you get countered. You get clipped by a few, you’re going to know about it. I would say you’ve got to be patient and go to the body.
“He has the tools to beat him.”
While the Ukrainian was so impressive in his first fight with Joshua, that is no guarantee he can repeat the feat a second time.
“If the taller man knows how to make that pay, it’s very, very hard for a little guy. The little guy’s got to work so hard, before he lands anything, to get in and out of range safe and then do his work,” Coldwell said.
“The more you watch [the first fight] you realise even though it was bad [for Joshua] and AJ really didn’t do much, he did have a lot of successes. The successes that he had were quite important successes.
“He showed a blueprint for him going into the rematch.”
Anthony Joshua’s huge heavyweight rematch against Oleksandr Usyk is on Saturday August 20, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book Usyk vs Joshua 2 now!