Oleksandr Usyk defeated Tyson Fury to become the undisputed heavyweight champion

Oleksandr Usyk defeated Tyson Fury to become the first undisputed heavyweight champion in nearly a quarter of a century in the early hours of Sunday morning in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The unbeaten Ukrainian emerged victorious from a 12-round battle with a bloodied Fury to add the WBC title to his WBO, WBA and IBF titles – the first time in history that any heavyweight has held all four titles in the four-belt era.

Usyk, who now moves to a perfect 22-0 in his career, advanced via split decision of 115-112, 113-114 and 114-113 on the judges’ scorecards.

“I feel good. A lot of people prayed for me, I love you. I’m very happy,” a beaming Usyk said as he was surrounded by his team in the ring at Kingdom Arena.

The defeat, Fury’s first as a pro, moved him to 34-1-1.

The two now appear set for a rematch later in the year – according to their pre-fight contract – with Fury claiming in the immediate aftermath that he had won the bout.

“I think I’ve won this battle,” he said. “I think he won a few rounds but I won more.

“Make no mistake, I won this fight and I will be back. We go back to our families and bring him back in October. I’m not going to sit here and cry and make excuses.”

Usyk won the fight via split decision (Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

Not since Lennox Lewis in 2000 has the top division seen an undisputed champion, with Usyk now adding his name to the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in the sport’s most exclusive club.

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Usyk could have ended the fight in the ninth game when a powerful left and a barrage of shots sent Fury, who already had bruised marks on his face, reeling backwards. Only a combination of the ropes, referee Mark Nelson and the end-of-round bell saved him from an early stoppage.

The opening stages were for Fury, as the Briton used his superior length and reach to keep Usyk, the more aggressive and prolific puncher of the two, largely out of range.

But just when it looked like Fury had the bout under control, Usyk stormed back with just over three to go, connected with a flurry and forced Fury to face a referee’s count for only the eighth time in his career.

Both fighters showed the mental and physical toughness that made them champions to go the distance, with Usyk getting the better of the decision to hand Fury his first defeat since the amateur ranks.

“I think my people will be very happy. It is a big victory, not only for me, it is a big victory for my country, for the soldiers who are now defending my country,” Osyk said.

“I think now my father is taking care of me and he is very happy. Dad, I love you. I can, you told me I can.”

(Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

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