EXCLUSIVE: Arum talks not signing Usyk, backs Fury to beat new champ
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who passed on signing Oleksandr Usyk coming off his 2012 Olympic heavyweight gold medal showing, said he has ample respect for the new unified heavyweight titleholder but does not believe he would have a chance against lineal and WBC champion Tyson Fury, whom Arum co-promotes.
“I think you’d have to go with Fury because he is a very good boxer and the size (difference) is tremendous and, obviously, he wouldn’t be able to do the same thing to Fury as he did to (Anthony) Joshua,” Arum told World Boxing News. “It would be an interesting matchup, and it could probably happen down the road, but I don’t see Usyk having the ammunition to beat a Fury.”
Fury is a 6-foot-9, 270-pound mountain of a man with quick hands and feet. He would dwarf the 6-3, 220-pound Usyk, who is a master boxer but a blown-up cruiserweight.
Usyk, the former undisputed cruiserweight champion, was in only his third fight in the heavyweight division when he won a fairly dominant upset unanimous decision over Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) to take his three major heavyweight title belts on Sept. 25 before a crowd of 66,267 mostly Joshua fans at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in Joshua’s hometown of London.
Joshua has the contractual option to invoke the right to an immediate rematch and said after the fight he would do just that. But as far as Arum is concerned, Joshua has little chance to avenge the defeat.
“Usyk has an obligation to fight a rematch with Joshua, and in my opinion, and they can make all the excuses they want for Joshua, but Joshua is not able to beat Usyk,” Arum said. “Maybe a fluke happens, and he’s able to beat him, but Usyk is so much a better fighter than Joshua because Usyk will box the pants off of Joshua, who really doesn’t know particularly well how to fight a southpaw.
“And then if they box, Usyk will beat him 10 out of 10 times, so Joshua has one chance, and that chance is to take it to Usyk. But if he does that, he exposes his chin, and the one thing about Joshua that people don’t mention as to why he fights the way he does is because he’s chinny, chin, chin.”
Fury is set to meet former world titlist Deontay Wilder in their arbitration-ordered third fight on Oct. 9 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. They fought to a disputed draw in their first fight at Staples Center in Los Angeles in December 2018, and Fury dominated and stopped Wilder in their rematch at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in their February 2020.
FURY vs. WILDER III
Should Fury be victorious again, Arum that if the opportunity was there to make an undisputed title fight between Fury and Usyk, their side would be up for it.
“If there wasn’t a (Joshua-Usyk) rematch, we would probably go right into doing that fight (after Wilder III), but there is a rematch clause,” Arum said.
Usyk-Joshua II probably would not take place any sooner than the early spring, meaning that if England’s Fury (30-0-1, 21 KO) beats the American Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) again, he would probably have another fight first before there was any real chance to make an undisputed fight with Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs), a 34-year-old southpaw, or to put back together the deal for the undisputed fight between Fury and Joshua. That fight was agreed to and was supposed to take place this past Aug. 14 in Saudi Arabia, but it was tabled when Wilder won his arbitration case to force Fury-Wilder III.
All the politics and punditry aside about a possible Fury-Usyk fight, Arum said he is a fan of Usyk’s and likes him very much.
“Let me tell you, there are very few guys in boxing as nice as he is,” Arum said of Usyk. “He’s very intelligent, and he’s a lot of fun. He’s really got a sense of humor, and he’s just a pleasure to be with. Such a real fun guy. On a friend level, I really like him very much. I always had great feeling for him, but the idea that if I promoted him, we would have wound up the same way, it’s possible but not likely.”
After the 2012 Olympics, Arum had a chance to sign Usyk. He was in the process of signing Vasiliy Lomachenko, Usyk’s Ukrainian Olympic teammate and close friend, who was trained by Lomachenko’s father, Anatoly. The two boxers and their manager, Egis Klimas, were at Arum’s home for a meeting, and Klimas offered Arum the chance to sign Usyk along with Lomachenko.
“Egis asked me if I wanted to sign Usyk, and I said, ‘Look, I’m an American promoter, and he fights in the cruiserweight division, and I can’t make him money in the cruiserweight division. You’re better off getting a European promoter to promote him because he will do well in Europe,’ and that’s the truth,” Arum said. “I knew he had tremendous ability, and ‘Papa-chenko’ told me that. But what the f— was I going to do with a cruiserweight in the United States?”
Arum said he has some regret about not signing Usyk but figures things worked out for the best.
“There’s always regret, but when I look at it realistically and honestly, I don’t think if he came with me, he would have wound up to where he did, to be honest with you,” Arum said. “I might have (put him in the World Boxing Super Series) because what was I going to do with him? What was I going to do with the guy? And remember, this was before (Top Rank’s deal with) ESPN. Can you imagine going to (former HBO Sports vice president) Peter Nelson and asking him for money to put a cruiserweight on (in a main event)? They put him on twice, both on an undercard.”
Usyk ultimately did enter the World Boxing Super Series and won the tournament, becoming the first-ever undisputed cruiserweight champion of the four-belt era by outclassing Murat Gassiev to fully unify the division in the final of the eight-man tournament.
Arum did promote one Usyk fight on HBO when he made his second WBO title defense against Michael Hunter at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. But he only put him on the card as a favor to Lomachenko, who headlined that April 2017 show in a WBO junior lightweight title defense against Jason Sosa.