As sports fans prepare for a hectic February and move towards early spring, there’s excitement in the air. January seemed to go on forever, but the opening month of the year is now behind us, and we can look ahead to the delights 2024 has in store. Which sporting events are you most looking forward to this year, and which teams and athletes do you expect to prevail? There’s plenty to choose from if you’re a lover of football, horse racing, and soccer.
February is the most important month of the year if you love football and follow the National Football League, more commonly known as the NFL. The richest and most popular American football competition in the world reached its climax with Super Bowl LVIII at the Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada. The two remaining teams in the title race, the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, battle it out for the title and a place in the history books.
The top bookies offer odds with the latest Betonline review showing great odds, eye-catching promotions, and exciting markets. You can back the match-winner, the MVP, the total points score, and more. Prefer combat sports over football? This article has you covered as we highlight an alternative sports fixture in February that will draw a global audience in the millions.
Shot at history
The February fixture we speak of is the world heavyweight championship unification bout involving champions Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk. The winner of that fight in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, 17th February, will give fight fans something they’ve been missing for a quarter of a century: one unified and respected champion of the world in the highest division. Many great fighters failed to win all major belts, but Usyk and Fury have a chance to achieve just that. Will the Ukrainian win, or will the Gypsy King continue his unbeaten form?
Tyson Fury is the early betting favorite in this enthralling clash of the unbeaten gladiators. Usyk has a perfect record as a professional boxer, and so does his opponent, Fury. The Englishman’s CV currently stands at 34 wins against no defeats and one draw with 24 knockout victories. The spare on his card was a highly contentious split decision draw with American fighter Deontay Wilder. The Bronze Bomber was the WBC champion at the time, but the pair fought twice more in a gripping trilogy, with Tyson scoring back-to-back knockouts.
The pundits all fancy Fury to inflict a first career defeat on his opponent and rip the remaining titles from around his waist. Victory in Saudi Arabia would put Fury on a pedestal alongside other British boxing greats, like Lennon Lewis. But he’ll get nothing for free against the man from Ukraine. All the talk in the build-up to this month’s fight has centered on Fury, allowing Usyk to fly under the radar. But what do we know about Usyk, and does he have a chance of beating Tyson? Keep reading as we highlight the Ukrainian’s story.
Usyk’s initial foray into the world of combat sports began with his interest in soccer and kickboxing. However, destiny had other plans for the Ukrainian prodigy.
Introduced to boxing at the age of 15, Usyk found his true calling in the squared circle. His raw talent and natural athleticism quickly caught the eye of coaches, paving the way for a transition to amateur boxing.
Usyk’s rise through the amateur ranks was meteoric. Competing in the highly competitive Ukrainian boxing scene, he amassed an impressive record and garnered attention for his technical finesse, footwork, and strategic brilliance.
His breakthrough moment came in 2012 when he claimed the gold medal in the heavyweight division at the London Olympics. The victory solidified his status as an elite amateur and served as a springboard for his eventual leap into the professional game.
In 2013, Usyk turned professional, setting his sights on the cruiserweight division. Guided by his manager, Egis Klimas, and trained by the renowned Anatoliy Lomachenko, father of another Ukrainian boxing sensation, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Usyk’s professional journey began with an unblemished record and an immediate impact.
Usyk’s proficiency in the cruiserweight division was nothing short of spectacular. His boxing IQ, coupled with a unique southpaw stance, made him a formidable force. In just his 10th professional fight, he secured the WBO cruiserweight title, marking the beginning of an unprecedented reign. Over the next few years, Usyk systematically unified the division, holding all four major belts by 2018.
World Boxing Super Series
Usyk’s crowning achievement in the cruiserweight division came through his participation in the inaugural World Boxing Super Series (WBSS). The tournament, designed to bring together the best fighters in the division, saw Usyk face elite opposition, including Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis, and Murat Gassiev.
In the July 2018 final, Usyk faced Murat Gassiev in a highly anticipated showdown. The Ukrainian maestro delivered a boxing clinic, showcasing his technical prowess and ring intelligence to secure a unanimous decision victory. With the victory, Usyk added the WBSS Muhammad Ali Trophy to his collection and secured his status as the undisputed cruiserweight champion.
With his cruiserweight conquest complete, Usyk set his sights on an ambitious move to the heavyweight division. The decision to jump weight classes is a daunting challenge for any boxer, but Usyk’s confidence and self-belief were unwavering. His heavyweight debut came in October 2019 against Chazz Witherspoon, where he displayed a seamless transition, securing a seventh-round stoppage.
However, it was Usyk’s second heavyweight clash against Dereck Chisora in October 2020 that truly tested his mettle in the division. Chisora, known for his aggressive style and knockout power, provided Usyk with a stern challenge. Yet, the Ukrainian masterfully navigated the fight, showcasing his versatility and boxing understanding to secure a unanimous decision victory.
Usyk’s best moment as a heavyweight came when dethroning Anthony Joshua in London and again in a Saudi rematch, setting the scene for an all-action bout with Fury.