RIYADH – One of Oleksandr Usyk’s sparring partners believes that the Ukrainian will struggle to have “a massive say” in his fight on Saturday with Tyson Fury.

The WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion contests the undisputed title against Fury at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in an occasion with the potential to define his career.

In the event of victory he will likely be remembered among the very finest fighters in history, but defeat by the 35-year-old Fury – the WBC champion – will mean he is likely to be remembered for his remarkable achievements at cruiserweight instead.

Jordan Thompson sparred the 37-year-old Usyk before arguably the finest performance of his career, against Murat Gassiev in 2018 when he won the undisputed cruiserweight title, before later also sparring Fury ahead of two his fights with Deontay Wilder that will also be overshadowed if, as Thompson expects, his fellow Briton wins.

“I’ve got a lot of time and a lot of respect for Fury, and what he’s done as a person and as a fighter,” Thompson said. “I am a little bit biased. But I’d say it’s a 50-50 – in terms of technicians and tacticians, I can’t really split the two. But in who I genuinely think will get the job done, I think Fury edges him in every department just about. He just about edges him. It comes down to, he’s a real heavyweight – he’s a through-and-through heavyweight. There’s no denying that.

“[The size difference] depends on what Tyson turns up. He’s a very adaptable individual; someone who can do whatever he wants to do in the ring. It depends if he goes in there and how he wants to use his size. It’s up to Tyson. I do believe it’s a fight where it’s up to Tyson to win or Tyson to lose. I don’t think Usyk has a massive say in it. It depends what Tyson shows up on the night and what approach he brings into the fight. But someone of that size, if he uses it in the right way, it’s gonna cause a lot of problems.

“His mindset’s special – look what he’s overcome out of the ring; in the ring. I see a video the other day, showing all his knockdowns. ‘Wait a sec – this guy’s still unbeaten – he’s not lost one of them fights.’ He’s a freak. He’s a freak – he’s got something you can’t teach.

“[Their power is] underrated. You’re dealing with two fighters who are artistic in their approach. It’s hit-and-don’t-get-hit. It’s the art of boxing. Yeah, they’re tough, but they’re not your let’s-have-a-scrap kind of guys. Don’t get me wrong – they both can have a scrap. But when they get in that ring it’s hit; don’t get hit. Then they add a little bit of violence in their own way. Their power is underrated – Fury, look at the size of him. The length of his reach. You’ve just got to do the physics – the maths. He’s a big, big man. 

“Footwork, he’s definitely quick. He’s got that speed and that weight, and that’s what equals power. If he really chose to sit-down and let his hands fly, he’s causing problems.

“The same with Usyk, though. It’s not like he’s a small puncher. He’s heavy-handed himself. Both carry power, but I don’t think either of them have really displayed their full power. But they’ve not really had to – they’re two unbeaten fighters. Whatever they’re doing, it works for them.”

Thompson hopes to fight again later in the summer, by when the outcome of the rematch between his domestic rivals Chris Billam-Smith and Richard Riakporhe will be known.

“We’re gonna find out when he steps in the ring [if Fury’s still the same fighter],” he continued. “If it’s the Tyson Fury that stepped in there against [in October 2023, Francis] Ngannou, the mad thing is I think he’ll still find a way to beat Usyk. But it’s for all the marbles, and he always comes up with an answer. He always finds a way. 

“Is he the same fighter? Those three fights he had against Wilder were brutal. Who knows what toll that took on him? No one knows what effect that really did have on him. Only he knows how he’s feeling. But again, he always finds a way – he’s always got an answer for everything that he’s been asked, so you’ve got to give respect to him.

“They’re both special, special fighters. Special individuals; special athletes.

“[But] Tyson always finds a way. I think late stoppage. [Rounds] nine to 12; late stoppage. Maybe that’s a bit biased, I don’t know. But either way I think Tyson wins. Whether it’s a decision or late stoppage, I do believe Tyson wins.”