REFLECTIONS ON RIYADH
20.05.24

REFLECTIONS ON RIYADH

By Frank Warren

THE DUST IS now beginning to settle following a historic night in Riyadh, which witnessed the crowning of a first undisputed heavyweight world champion for some 25 years.

The Fight of the Century between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk certainly lived up to its billing with 12 rounds of pure theatre. It was captivating stuff and a totally compelling watch that only served to increase admiration for both men.

From a personal, as well as national, point of view the result didn’t go our way, but Tyson did everyone proud and I can’t remember a British heavyweight showing such incredible fortitude in the ring.

Absolutely nobody can question his heart for a battle.

In my book it was a very close run thing and I felt Tyson edged it based on his period of dominance in the fight where, for a while, it looked like he would get Usyk out of there.

However, this was no controversial decision and there was no bleating from Tyson or his team. I know some people will have picked up on a comment relating to the war in Ukraine, but this was a consequence of raw emotion in the moments following the fight before Tyson was really thinking straight.

You shouldn’t really expect eloquent and well thought out responses in the immediate aftermath of a bruising 12 round battle. Tyson gave Usyk every respect and, when their careers have played out, they will enjoy a bond that will last a lifetime.

Of course, there remains the strong likelihood of a sequel, which would afford Tyson the opportunity to redress the balance of power.

I always prefer not to jump straight in and commit to a future course of action immediately after the event. I think it is right to get home, rest and recover, before taking stock and making big decisions in the cold light of day.

Tyson holds the contractual right to do the fight again and he will let us all know when he is ready. This fight took many, many months out of the family lives of these men and both should be allowed time to enjoy the spoils of their endeavours.

A return would again be a Box Office smash hit and, you will not be surprised to learn, I believe Tyson doesn’t require too much in the way of corrective action to turn the result around.

When he was working off his jab and bringing the uppercut into play Usyk didn’t have the answers, but the Ukrainian has proved himself to be a great champion and his record as a boxer speaks volumes for the man.

European, world and Olympic champion as an amateur and now a two-weight undisputed champion as a pro. Simply incredible.

While Tyson has been – temporarily, in my view – parted from his world championship belt, three Queensberry fighters did return from Riyadh with some significant hardware.

Anthony Cacace is now the IBF world super featherweight champion following his destruction of Joe Cordina in a sensational performance.

Anto seized his moment in a big way at an advanced stage of his career. He prepared well and has finally realised his obvious potential.

Now he can enjoy a glorious swansong with plenty of major fights firmly on the horizon. My congratulations Anto, I am truly delighted for you!

Mark Chamberlain is now the WBC Silver champion at lightweight after his devastating display against Joshua Wahab, a noted puncher who was quickly welcomed with a taste of his own medicine.

Mark is in a fantastic position with the Silver title, which effectively means he is only two or three good fights away from a world title shot. Our job is now to get the timing right and make sure he gets the required experience before mixing with the Lomachenkos and co of this world.

Moses Itauma is now in possession of his first professional title in the WBO Intercontinental championship, which is surely the first of many major belts that will find their way to his household.

What we shouldn’t forget is that he is just 9-0 and 19 years of age. He has made very short work of his last five opponents and we have to keep topping up his experience and avoid jumping the gun, however much he probably wants to leap up the levels.

To complete a magical night for Ukrainian boxing, another of our lightweight stars, Denys Berinchyk, pulled off a bit of an upset over in San Diego by defeating Emanuel Navarrette to win the vacant WBO world title.

It creates a tremendous landscape for us at 135lbs, with both Mark and Sam Noakes closing in on world level.

First things first, though. Congratulations to Denys, who has waited a long time for his shot at a world title and has now seized his moment.

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