Eddie Hearn feels Tyson Fury will finally be untouchable, from a legacy standpoint, if he manages to defeat Oleksandr Usyk.
Usyk, the IBF, IBO, WBA, WBO heavyweight champion, will take on WBC titlist Fury, of Manchester, England, on May. 18 for the undisputed heavyweight championship at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Hearn said he has not exactly been sold on Fury’s resume, but he believes that a win over Usyk would legitimize Fury, in his eyes, as a generational “great.”
Hearn and Fury have had their fair share of rancorous encounters, mostly on social media, but Hearn made it clear he will be rooting for Fury against Usyk, even though Hearn used to promote the Ukrainian. Of course, Hearn has a vested interest in the outcome of that fight. The winner of Usyk vs. Fury could then meet the winner of Anthony Joshua vs. Francis Ngannou, scheduled for March 8, also in Riyadh.
Joshua, who is promoted by Hearn, has already fought Usyk twice, losing both times, so public appetite for a third bout between them would be at a low ebb. A Fury vs. Joshua all-British showdown, on the other hand, would generate outsize attention.
“I know that we’ve had our back and forths over the years, but I do have a lot of respect for him,” Hearn said of Fury in an interview with iFL TV. “Firstly for what he did to get back to where he was. I think that was incredible. Two, I do rate him very highly as a fighter. …I respect what he’s done. I respect him as a fighter. He’s a Brit, I want him to win. Of course, I also want AJ to beat Ngannou and try and make AJ against Fury but I also respect Usyk. He worked with him for a long time and I think he’s an unbelievable person and an unbelievable fighter.
“But some people are a bit weird when they don’t want a specific person to win. I want Tyson Fury, a British fighter, to win that fight and go down as a real great. And I’m pleased that he’s taking that fight because I’ve said in interviews before, it was frustrating because that is the fight that will make him a great. I feel that beating Klitschko was incredible. Beating Wilder, for me there are still some doubts over Wilder. But beating Usyk for the undisputed that kind of leaves nothing to chance in terms of the debate about him being a great of our generation. So respect to him. It’s what boxing needs.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.