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Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk: The social media aftermath

The long-awaited fight for the Undisputed Boxing Heavyweight championship is over and we have a new champion. 24 years after Lennox Lewis took the undisputed title on 13th November 1999, Oleksandr Usyk defeated Tyson Fury by split decision on 18th May 2024 at Kingdom Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Social media is of course ablaze with a hive of activity as the build up, rescheduling and anticipation of a contest between two elite heavyweight champions has finally given way to a definitive result. CompuBox stats show Usyk outlanded Fury in punches landed by 41.8% to 31.7%, with the judges scoring fight 112-115, 114-113 and 113-114 in favour of Usyk. So what’s happening in world of social media? How is the community reacting to the result?

Before the contest, it was common to hear the phrases ‘greatest heavyweight boxer’ and ‘greatest boxer of our generation’ for both Oleksandry Usyk and Tyson Fury. But now that Usyk has won, and arguably definitively so, there’s an amplification of Fury’s dubious résumé. “Other than Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder, who has Fury fought!?” That’s been a common criticism of Fury’s record, which many fans argue is padded with fighters such as Tom Schwarz, Sefer Seferi and Derek Chisora (who Fury fought 3 times). Usyk, on the other hand, is widely praised for fighting the best and taking their championships. Similar to the social media aftermath of Terence Crawford and Errol Spence, there’ll be a huge reduction in the number of people referring to Fury as the greatest heavyweight boxer, just as there was of those referring to Errol Spence as the greatest welterweight boxer.

In many ways, it’s unfair that a fighter’s reputation can take such a massive drop from ‘greatest’ to just another fighter, and belies the fact that Fury, while no longer undefeated, is still an elite, once-in-a-lifetime boxer. The fight was widely recognised as a difficult one to predict, with both fighters having unique attributes that could have take either one to victory, but now that Usyk has won, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to downplay his talent. Despite being an Olympic gold medalist and an undefeated, undisputed cruiserweight champion, there were persistent doubts about how he’d fare at heavyweight.

First, while there was acknowledgement of his achievements at cruiserweight, social media was often quick to point out that heavyweight was another ballgame altogether. Once Usyk was able to get past Chazz Witherspoon and Derek Chisora, a large chunk of the community felt Anthony Joshua was a step too far. Then when he beat AJ twice, although predictions were evenly split, there was a sense that Fury, who had been boxing since the age of 10, was too big and wouldn’t make the same mistakes AJ had made (though there was a contingent who felt Fury was overhyped and had been exposed against Francis Ngannou. Now that Usyk has defeated Fury, people are acknowledging that Usyk should be in the GOAT conversation, mentioned alongside names such as Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis.

Now that Tyson Fury is having to contend with his first professional loss, how will he deal with it? Some people feel boxing is better without him at the helm, arguing that he’s held up the division with his antics. But a rematch is on the cards. Some have reported that a quick conversation between Fury and Usyk before the winner was announced was along the lines of, “If I win, I’ll give you a rematch. If you win, you should give me a rematch.” So part 2 may be several months away.

But how will Fury deal with a flood of social media comments no longer referring to him in the same esteem with which he was once held? Several fighters in boxing and in other combat disciplines haven’t managed too well following a fall from grace. Deontay Wilder was criticised for how he dealt with his first loss to Fury. Ronda Rousey in MMA struggled to come to terms with her loss to Holly Holm. But others have used losses to their advantage, notably Saul Canelo Alvarez, who managed to become one of the most celebrated boxers of our era following his loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2013.

Referee asking Tyson Fury if he's ok to continue in round 9.
Referee Mark Nelson asks Tyson Fury if he’s ok to continue against Oleksandr Usyk in round 9.

With the result being a split decision, conversations on social media have been reignited about the pervasive corruption in the sport of boxing. Why did one judge score it in favour of Fury? Prior to the bout, there were conversations about the canvas not being to Usyk’s liking and many people are talking about how the referee saved Tyson Fury from a TKO in round 9. Had it been anyone else, they argue, the ref would’ve called off the fight. Interestingly, this has been a common conversation with Fury, with him arguably having robbed John McDermott in 2009, having been allowed a count following a devastating left hook from Deontay Wilder in 2018, and having been allowed to keep fighting against Otto Wallin despite a deep gash above his right eye in 2019. The sense here is that there was a mega fight on the cards – Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua – and so from a business perspective, it would’ve been preferable for Fury to have beaten Usyk.

But now the dust is settling and Oleksandr Usyk is champion, another side to social media is surfacing. People are turning against Tyson Fury just as they did to Errol Spence after his loss to Terence Crawford and just as they did to Ryan Garcia after his loss to Gervonta Davis. Fury has always been a divisive figure, and so the memes are out in force, particularly those depicting his round 9 attempt at survival. But others continue to appreciate what Fury has brought to the sport. It is entertainment after all, and it’s undeniable that rivalries and personalities make boxing more watchable. The ball is now in Fury’s court. He’s a multimillionaire and has various business ventures. How will he respond? Does he feel the need to avenge his loss? He has an amazing comeback story already. Can he find it within himself to do it again?

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