Why is Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk off? Heavyweight boxing superfight in Saudi Arabia cancelled to new date after cut

If you’re a fight fan then you’ve just woken up into a nightmare, as the long-awaited undisputed heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk has been postponed.

The bout was originally scheduled to take place on February 17 at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

On Friday, ESPN’s Mike Coppinger sent out a tweet no one wanted to read confirming via his sources that the fight was off.

Given the hype and the money that’s already gone into this event, it’s no exaggeration to label this turn of events disastrous for the sport.

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Why has Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk been called off?

Coppinger’s tweet made for grim reading.

“Tyson Fury suffered a severe cut today while sparring that required stitches and his undisputed heavyweight championship fight with Oleksandr Usyk, scheduled for Feb. 17 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has been postponed, sources tell ESPN.”

With Fury sustaining a cut that requires stitches there’s just no way that he can fight in two weeks. While the wound should be healing by that point, the flesh would still be fragile and could reopen with the lightest of blows.

The situation is very similar to the delay that befell the original date for George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali in 1974. That bout was delayed by six weeks when Foreman was cut by an elbow in sparring.

Like his fans and boxing watchers around the world, Fury’s disappointment at the news was palpable in a statement posted by the fight promoters on X (formerly twitter).

I’m absolutely devastated after preparing for this fight for so long and being in such superb condition — Tyson Fury

“I feel bad for everyone involved in this huge event and I will work diligently towards the rescheduled date when the eye has healed. I can only apologise to everyone affected including my own team, Team Usyk, the undercard fighters, partners, and fans as well as our hosts any my friends in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

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What is the new date for Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk?

At this stage, we don’t have one. But the initial reports have been clear to state that the fight has been postponed, rather than cancelled.

When a new date is viable depends on the severity of Fury’s injury, although Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) have given every indication that they’re all in for big-time boxing and will make this happen.

GEA supremo Turki Alalsheikh has already announced his plans for Dmitry Bivol to take on Artur Beterbiev for the undisputed light heavyweight title in June, although a date is not set.

The same applies to the “five vs. five” card featuring fighters from Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom and Frank Warren’s Queensbury promotions.

Either of these could be knocked back in the schedule to accommodate Fury vs. Usyk and keep Alalsheikh’s plans to have the winner face the victor of Anthony Joshua vs. Francis Ngannou on March 8 on track.

At the launch press conference for Joshua vs. Ngannou, Alalsheikh unveiled a special — and suitably garish — undisputed belt for the whole endeavour. In short, in boxing’s new Saudi-fueled reality, this fight is not going away.

MORE: Did Jai Opetaia knock down Tyson Fury in sparring session?

Will Usyk still fight on February 17?

When Fury made much harder work of Ngannou in their “Battle of the Baddest” clash last October, a proposed December 23 meeting with Usyk was shelved in favour of the now doomed February date.

The GEA, along with the assistance of Hearn and Warren, put together “The Day of Reckoning”, where Joshua battered Otto Wallin and Deontay Wilder was upset by Joseph Parker on a stacked and heavyweight-dominated card.

When big sporting events are arranged as part of Riyadh Season, “the show must go on” is the maxim that governs everything. Take the billed Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi match between Al Nassr and Inter Miami on February 1, also in Saudi Arabia. Ronaldo got injured to be ruled out, the game went ahead anyway and Messi appeared as a substitute for the final six minutes.

So it feels like there is a very good chance indeed that IBF, WBA and WBO champion Usyk gets to work on February 17. The question is, against who?

Parker is due to fight Zhilei Zhang on the undercard. Either of those would be compelling opponents for the Ukrainian great but it’s also a fine and marketable fight in its own right.

Reports by The Boxing News and Sports Illustrated suggest that undefeated Croatian Filip Hrgovic is poised to step in.

Hrgovic dispatched the grossly overmatch Mark De Mori on the December 23 card. He was not due to fight on February 17, but his links to the Usyk bout at such short notice suggest he’s been retained as a reserve opponent by the organisers and instructed to stay in shape.

The 31-year-old is also Usyk’s IBF mandatory so would handily tick that box with the sometimes over-zealous sanctioning body as the prospect of an undisputed fight is once again shifted a little further down the road.

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