Usyk is the FIRST undisputed heavy champ

Oleksandr Usyk Undisputed
Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

By Boxing Bob Newman

All props to anyone who has held a version of the heavyweight title in boxing. There has been such buildup, pomp and circumstance leading to the May 18th match in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia between WBC champ Tyson Fury and WBO/IBF/WBA champ Oleksandr Usyk. The process has included claims that the winner would be the first undisputed heavyweight champion in 25 years, or since Lennox Lewis defeated Evander Holyfield in their rematch for the WBC/WBA/IBF titles. That win however, meant Lewis was the “unified” champ at heavyweight, but not undisputed. That’s because the reigning WBO champ at the time was Vitali Klitschko.

Lewis would hold his three belts for only five months, as the WBA would strip him for not signing to fight #1 rated John Ruiz. The recently vanquished Holyfield would defeat Ruiz for the vacant WBA belt on August 12, 2000. By that time, Chris Byrd had shocked the boxing world by defeating the elder Klitschko brother, who, despite being well ahead on the score cards, retired on his stool with an insurmountable lead, due to a shoulder injury. Lewis was left with the WBC and IBF straps, which he would defend three times in 2000, until he shockingly was stopped with one punch by Hasim Rahman in Brakpan, South Africa, in the fifth round on April 22, 2001.

Ironically, the WBO formed in 1988 and crowned it’s first heavyweight champion- Italy’s Francesco Damiani, on May 6, 1989, more than a month before Lennox Lewis even turned professional, let alone won any version of a world heavyweight title. Prior to Damiani’s inaugural annexation of the WBO strap, Mike Tyson was the last undisputed champion of the three belt era, making a defense of those three belts (WBA/WBC/IBF) against Frank Bruno on February 25th, 1989, two-and-a-half months before Damiani’s WBO snag.

So, if the WBO counts as one of four major sanctioning bodies in boxing now, then it counted 25 years ago, (don’t tell either Klitschko brother, Oscar De La Hoya, Marco Antonio Barrera, Bernard Hopkins, Manny Pacquiao or many other ring greats that it didn’t), then Lennox Lewis was never undisputed heavyweight champion. No disrespect, just the facts. While we’re discussing facts, it’s O-l-e-k-s-a-n-d-r, not A-l-e-x-a-n-d-e-r Usyk, as so many in the media have mispronounced his name. “Oleksandr” is a uniquely Ukrainian version of Alexander. All hail Oleksandr Usyk- the FIRST UNDISPUTED heavyweight champion of the four belt era!

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  • In the meantime, Fury still argues he thought he won this fight. LOL… He still cant accept he lost. The arrogance on his behalf is off the charts.

    • Sure he can argue that, it was a close fight. He wouldn’t be much of a competitor if he thought he lost while one of the judges themselves thought he won. Fighters claim they won fights they didn’t get the nod in all the time.

    • Scoob:
      – Gotta admit that Fury didn’t do much holding.
      – I haven’t screamed at the TV like I did in Round 9 in a long time…….

      • Gary, you are right. He grabbed and held a few times, but nothing like in the past. Usyk was on the lookout for the clinches as he fired counters off the few clinches during the fight.

        • Majority if not all competitors would say the same thing especially if they were winning the fight. Nothing wrong with it whatsoever. It’s in our competitive nature. Fury even gave Usyk tons of respect after the fight. The only thing you can do is pick yourself back up and try again. Tyson Fury was winning the fight by at least 2 rounds prior to round 9, it was even mentioned Fury was ahead on the scorecards. If that round didn’t go the way it did Fury might would have won a close decision. That knockdown in round 9 bought Usyk back even and Fury took a round or two off after that knockdown. That fight could have gone either way and I believe that knockdown is what Usyk needed to win that fight. If it never have happened we might would have a different outcome. I want to see it again. It should happen again. That was a damn good fight.

  • Congratulations to Usyk, but the event was largely ignored by the mainstream sports media. If you asked 100 people who Usyk is, you would be lucky to find one who knows. The absurd multi-belt era confused the public and destroyed interest. That is reality and we need to face it.

    • Usyk is a great fighter but he has no personality or isn’t a showman of any kind. He’s your standard Slavic fighter. Fury has personality which allow him to have a short stent with the WWE and gain a bigger fan base. I don’t think it’s the belts. Look at Ryan, he’s never been a champion but has nearly 10 million followers on social media. He’s unpredictable but has personality. He markets himself. This doesn’t mean making a fool out of yourself. Maybe Usky can do what Manny did. Every time he does something nice have media there to cover it.

      • Usyk may not have a personality you like. But he has personality. I much prefer his character over the typical, ego driven n “tough guy” personality of most fighters. He’s just real, speaks from the heart, and appears honest in his word. I guess it comes down to what you enjoy personally. But I feel the understated word and action outside of the ring, while allowing your skills and fighting abilities to speak for you while in the ring, is a lost and dying art in combat sports.
        In the “Connor McGregor ” Era of brash talk and ego driven bombastic action, fighters like Usyk are a breath of fresh air, and a missed personality from the earlier days of boxing.

      • He is a boxer. Who cares about everything else. He is doing his job.

  • Nice article but you guys cannot go back add the WBO as a legit title in that era. It was a fringe title at that point and only became recognized in 2004. Lewis WAS undisputed.

    • Exactly, you can go back to the the WBC/WBA split, IBF belt, then the WBO, what’s next the IBO? Don’t invalidate history with revisions that didn’t reflect the opinion of the times. If it was still Herbie Hide with the WBO title back then this writer wouldn’t even have mentioned it.

    • Idk if you can consider any of these organizations “legit”. The Ring belt is the only one I think of as legit. Can you imagine the IBF will strip Usyk if he fights Fury in a rematch first? That’s ridiculous. Usyk won the fight but Fury is still the most deserving challenger. Excellent fight that should be run back asap. What are they going to do? Have Joshua fight Joseph Parker and then claim the winner is the champ? Give me a break. The sanctioning bodies are nothing but a scam.

  • net year it will be the start of the 5 belt era with the IBO being recognized more often but yea congrats to Usyk for being Undisputed which regardless of the alphabet soups is still a great accomplishment i think only Evander Holyfield was undisputed at both cruiserweight and Heavyweight

  • I agree with you, Bob, as the DAZN storyline of the first undisputed heavyweight champion being crowned in twenty-five years had me shaking my head. It certainly adds to the drama of the event and puts a nice shiny bow on it with25 being a nice round number . To your point, Lennox Lewis was unified champion, not undisputed, and I think it would’ve been more profound to go with the storyline of there not being an undisputed heavyweight champion in 36 years since Mike Tyson earned that distinction in 1988. But if we’re counting the WBO of the late-80’s through the mid-90’s in a similar manner the boxing establishment does now, that means Francesco Damiani, Ray Mercer, Tommy Morrison, Michael Bentt, and Herbie Hide are legit former heavyweight champions. That still seems a bit weird to me. But no matter how we slice it, there’s only one undisputed heavyweight champion now in this, the four belt era, and that’s the truly great and incomparable Oleksandr Usyk!

    • Well said. Francesco Damiani, Ray Mercer, Tommy Morrison, Michael Bentt, and Herbie Hide were never champs, they were “beltholders” at best. They were all contenders, some of them very brief contenders (but Mercer and Morrison stuck around the top 10 for a long time, if I recall).

  • Mr Newman you need to do better boxing research technically speaking the WBO even though existed was NOT recognized a major organization at that time so for the sake of boxing history Lennox Lewis was the last Undisputed Heavyweight Champion having all 3 major belts plus the IBO(yep the IBO) and the Ring Magazine and the lineal title as well the WBO truly wasnt recognized until after Y2K and by that time the alphabet soup was already scattered

    • Nonsense. Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn had the WBO title in the ’90s and it was regarded by most as legitimate. The legitimacy of Naseem Hamed’s long reign with the WBO belt in that era was also never in question.

  • Now the IBF is saying that because Usyk’s mandatory is two years overdue and because there is a rematch clause to fight Fury again, the IBF has already stripped Usyk. They agreed to sanction the Fury-Usyk fight only on the condition that the winner’s first defense would be against their #1 contender and notified all parties of this like last year. The problems is that we have too many world champions and unifications don’t last, The laughing stock of the WBO was when they said Francesco Damiani, was their champion in 1990, and would not just give their belt to Tyson, who beat Spinks in 1988 to become undisputed, The WBO has never really gained the kind of leverage as the WBA, WBC, and IBF because of that Francesco Damiani, garbage. And at least the IBF does not have b.s interim champions or belts, and follows their rules constitution the best of the sanctioning bodies for following their rules. But we don’t need four boxing federations. Maybe going back to one, would be best. Or even just make it the original two WBA/WBC like it was before 1983 and the IBF came into existence. Four boxing world champions is too confusing.

  • So in 20 years, if the WBU is considered a legitimate organization that counts, does that mean Usyk isn’t really undisputed champion now? Of course not, that’s stupid. Lewis was undisputed.

    • Logical thinking is at work in your comment. It’s quite rare these days.

    • The WBU only exited for a short time run by John Robinson of Great Britain. No single USA commission affiliated with it, and they were driven out of the states.

  • WBC & WBA were created out of necessity to prevent inactivity or bogus champ by the other. Those are the only 2 needed for undisputed champ

    • Lennox at his best beat both. But Lennox was not always at this best.

    • No doubt Lennox as long as he stays motivated no one can touch him.

  • What Usyk has achieved is truly astonishing. Going into this fight I could not visualize how he could beat Fury but true to his character, he found a way.

  • “Undisputed” and “Unified” don’t mean much as they rely more on the sanctioning bodies getting their act together than the fighters fighting the fights……

  • It’s hard to say when a belt gain legitimacy…. but I definitely wouldn’t say the WBO belt was recognized as more than a second rate belt while Lewis was still active. I’d say that the WBO belt started gaining legitimacy when universally recognized lineal champions started caring about holding on to that belt – but even that was not a universal standard. Prince Naseem Hamed held on to the WBO belt for a while, but ended up vacating them all of them before losing to Barrera. Nobody really considered Oscar De La Hoya a middleweight champion when he went in to unify against Hopkins (and keeping the belts together). Joe Calzaghe held on to the WBO supermiddleweight belt forever but didn’t get any respect outside of UK until unifying against the other “big 3” titles of the time.

    The fighters I mentioned above added to the developed legacy of legitimacy by carrying the WBO belt. However, that legitimacy did not always exist.

  • If he beats Fury in the rematch, what’s left for him. AJ looked pissed after the results because he KNOWS he can’ beat Usyk. Wilder’s abilities are in question until we see how he looks against Zhang. Big Baby isn’t ready for that type of heat. Unless I’m missing someone, who is a legit threat to him outside of the bogus governing bodies that may strip him if he doesn’t fight Joe Blow.

  • Pure nonsense. The WBO was not recognized by the other sanctioning bodies, at that monent in time. Nor by the media, or Ring Magazine, or anybody involved in boxing, except for the minions who worked for the WBO. By this authors logic, if a new Boxing organization had formed recently, calling itself the World Boxing Group (WBG), and had selected it’s own champion, then today we couldn’t refer to Usyk as the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion. This is a flawed, and ill conceived article.

  • There is a video, with John Fury promising Wilson a present after the match. Will there be allowed to get away with this.

  • It seems like the further down the road we go, the more diluted the word undisputed becomes. We have gone from Champion of the world to NBA/NYSAC champions to WBA/WBC champions to WBA/WBC/IBF to now WBA/WBC/IBF/WBO champions, makimg the claim of Undisputed very disputed.

    We have fan favorites, those who generate money for the sport and then those who are really the champs in their division.

    Once a fighter goes through all of the hurdles to collect all of the “required belts”, the organizations seem to get upset and quickly find a reason to strip the true champion of the division. If we are going to play that game, we need a fourth belt, the Undisputed belt. The Ring belt helped clear things up a bit. However, it has been a hit or miss throughout the decades, with a long break between 89 and 2000 something, but now it’s in limbo.

    We have super, franchise, unified, diamond and just about every other element on the table so adding one more with real significance won’t hurt the alphabet soup. We can add specific rules like minimum 2 title defenses per year with nothing but mandatories. Include a guaranteed 5 million for the champ or winner and a review board for BS decisions and give the board reversible powers.

  • Shows what a joke our sport has become today with no disrespect to the fighters. Is he unified ?is he undisputed ? What a load of crock. The Alphabet groups should be laughed out of town. We finally get a clear cut Champion and the IBF want to strip the new champion days after he wins it. As I say to my boxing pals out here enjoy a fight for what it is not what it’s for. Fans hate this business but sadly still rush out to pay far too much to watch. I go with the Ring magazine policy. Not perfect but far better than the greed driven anything for a sanction fee Alphabet boys. .!

  • Tyson was undisputed champion since August 1, 1987 and had as well as 6 successful defenses of the undisputed strap.

  • Congrats to Usyk, great display.
    I see there has been a debate about undisputed at heavy during the lewis reign.
    The WBO was well established during this period so it is open to discussion if Lewis was undisputed or not.
    I felt he was.
    However I also held the WBO with regard depending on who the champ was.
    An example is Chris Eubank at middle and Super Middle, brilliant fighter and tough as Nails.
    Mercer at heavy, was a machine at times and arguably beat Lewis.
    There are multiple examples of excellent fighters holding the WBO title at different weights.
    So I suppose it could be argued that the last true undisputed heavyweight champ was Mike Tyson.
    This would be seen as a more impressive feat for Usyk.
    Also it could be argued that Lineal is even more important than these trinkets.

  • The sad thing is that the belts don’t mean too much these days, especially when you can have four “champions” in one division. Where does it stop! The IBO has gained popularity these days. What’s next, a five belt era?
    Kudos to usyk for getting them all; that is special though. Some rich Saudi dude should contract all the top fighters in each division, pay them well, and start a new franchise with only one belt, and have them all fight each other. Basically like the Ring Mag belt, but backed by dudes with cash.

  • WBO do not count. Lennox was undisputed and also a greater heavyweight than Usyk

  • Here we have a guy with 100% everything in his favour. He was at least 6 inches taller with a 9 inches longer reach. 40 pounds heavier, nearly 2 times as many fights, considered the main man inspite having 1 belt to the other guy`s 3, 2 times more money for the fight, allowed to postpone the fight 3 times,allowed a ref who was obviously bias and standing in the way, saving him from getting ko, plus giving him the longest ever 8 count in the history of the game(20 seconds), and this fake gypsy complains. One of the hilarious complaints from this fighting man is” my wife wasn`t there”. Ya definitely couldn`t make this Crap up. My advice to Usyx is to retire, You will be robbed, especially if the match is made in England. The Furys will cheat, i would not be surprised if Fury dope himself in the return.

  • I thought the Foreman or either Shanno. Briggs was the first WBO champion. Why even bring Lennox Lewis Name up when your talking about the Last undisputed champion when it sounds like Evander Holyfield was actually the Last undisputed champion

  • At the time, the WBO was unrecognized and Lennox Lewis was declared Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion after holding the WBC, WBA, & IBF titles. The WBO was, at one point, meaningless, as it was just another title belt. Also, guys that weren’t good enough to either be ranked highly, or fight for world titles, were given title shots they didn’t earn.

    The WBO became more legitimized, as fighters began recognizing the WBO title as a legitimate championship. Riddick Bowe couldn’t get ranked by the WBC, WBA, or IBF after throwing a title in trash can. The Klitschkos added legitimacy to the championship, as did Ivan Calderon. They’re ranking system improved. The worked hard to form meaningful relationships with the other sanctioning bodies. Fighters unified the WBO titles in WBA, WBC, and IBF title fights. They’ve come a long way.

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