Tyson Fury confirmed that December 23 is the date on hold for his heavyweight title unification fight with Oleksandr Usyk.
The unbeaten WBC champion must emerge from his 10-round fight against Francis Ngannou on Saturday night without any cuts or other injuries that could delay his showdown with Usyk. If Fury is relatively unscathed following a main event he is heavily favored to win in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Fury-Usyk likely will be announced in the ring for eight weeks from Saturday night, also in Riyadh.
“I think everyone’s been told what date it is,” Fury told IFL TV during a wide-ranging interview posted to its YouTube channel Tuesday. “Well, there have been [talks] about the 23rd of December. The 23rd of December is what I’ve been told, led to believe. So yeah, I’ve got no reason to disbelieve that.
“It’s eight weeks after next Saturday night. And yeah, so gone from having no fights, retiring, to having two fights right at the end of the year, when everyone thought it wasn’t even possible, and I was a sh!t house and I can’t fight anymore, overnight. So yeah, not too shabby, eh?”
Top Rank and Queensberry Promotions, which co-promote Fury, announced September 29 that the champions had signed contracts for their historically significant fight at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh. Though December 23 has been rumored as the targeted date since that announcement was made, neither Fury nor Usyk acknowledged that they expect to fight that night until the abovementioned interview.
Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs) will end a 10½-month layoff against Ngannou, a former UFC heavyweight champion who will make his professional boxing debut. The 35-year-old Manchester native hasn’t fought since he stopped England’s Dereck Chisora (34-13, 23 KOs) in the 10th round of their title fight last December 3 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
Ukraine’s Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs), who owns the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO championships, most recently knocked out London’s Daniel Dubois in the ninth round of their August 26 bout in Wroclaw, Poland.
Dubois dropped Usyk with what he argued was a legal body punch during the fifth round, but referee Luis Pabon ruled it a low blow. Usyk was therefore afforded plenty of time to recover, regained control of their fight and dropped Dubois (19-2, 18 KOs) once late in the eighth round and again halfway through the ninth round at Tarczynski Arena Wroclaw.
The 37-year-old Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight champ, is expected to watch Fury fight Ngannou from a ringside seat Saturday night. Usyk famously jumped up on the ring apron to challenge Fury following his victory over Chisora, yet this time they have already signed contracts for a much-discussed bout that, unless it results in a draw or no-contest, will crown the first fully unified heavyweight champion of the four-belt era.
FanDuel sportsbook has installed Fury as a 20-1 favorite to defeat Ngannou in a bout that will headline pay-per-view shows in the United Kingdom (£21.95; 7 p.m. BST) and the United States ($79.99; 2 p.m. EDT).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.