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Usyk beats Fury to become first undisputed heavyweight boxing champion in 24 years

Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk became the world's first undisputed heavyweight boxing champion in 24 years by beating British fighter Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia's Riyadh.

Usyk defeated Fury by split decision late on Saturday night, knocking down his opponent in the ninth round, before eventually earning a narrow win on two scorecards. Two judges favored Usyk, 115-112 and 114-113, while the third gave it to Fury, 114-113. Usyk added Fury's WBC title to his own WBA, IBF and WBO belts.

"It's a great time. It's a great day," said Usyk who is 6 inches shorter than the 6-foot-9 Fury, and weighed in 30 pounds lighter. "Thank you so much to my team," Usyk said, fighting back tears. "It's a big opportunity for me, for my family, for my country. Slava Ukraini!"

Fury kissed Usyk on the head after the final bell, and Usyk hugged Fury several moments after the decision was read. In an interview after the fight, Fury also said he wants a rematch in October.

"I believe I won that fight," Fury said. "I believe he won a few of the rounds, but I won the majority of them, and I believe it was one of those what-can-you-do, one of them ... decisions in boxing. We both put on a good fight, best we can do. "You know, his country is at war, so people are siding with a country at war. But make no mistake, I won that fight, in my opinion, and I'll be back. I've got a rematch clause."

Usyk has now joined the elite club of fighters who held every major world championship belt at heavyweight — and he is the first to do it in the four-belt era, which began in 2007. The list of undisputed champions includes Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson. The most recent undisputed heavyweight champ was Lennox Lewis, who beat Evander Holyfield in late 1999 and enjoyed a five-month reign.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Robbie Griffiths