Fury vs Usyk: Vulnerabilities, Misconceptions, Strategy & Keys To Victory

Boxing Scene

“I watched hours and hours and hours of Usyk,” remembered Dave Coldwell. 

The coach was preparing his fighter, Tony Bellew, to face Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk and in doing so studied anything and everything of the man who would eventually stop Bellew in eight rounds in 2018 at the Manchester Arena.

“I’ve got to say that out of all he fighters I’ve watched, Usyk is probably the most I’ve watched anyone because when you’re looking at someone who looks like they’ve got no weaknesses, you have to fucking find one,” Coldwell added.

Coldwell is looking forward to Usyk facing Tyson Fury this weekend in Saudi Arabia, and has a unique perspective, having been in the corner, trying to defeat the now WBA, IBF and WBO champion with Bellew in Usyk’s final fight at cruiserweight. 

“Everybody goes to Usyk,” Coldwell explained. “That’s why I think Fury will be best served not by backing off but boxing at his own range rather than trying to walk him down and bully him, because Usyk going forward is not as good as when he’s hitting, moving and creating angles.”

Coldwell feels Usyk might start hitting Fury on the arms and chest to start, trying to fatigue the bigger man and get him thinking, forcing him to take the mental and physical strain. 

Coldwell also took time to look at trends, misconceptions and possible opportunities for each fighter ahead of the undisputed heavyweight title fight on Saturday (May 18).

Fury Is Open To The Right Hand – What Does That Mean For Southpaw Usyk?

Conventional wisdom dictates that if anyone gets Fury, they will do it with a big right hand and if Usyk gets stopped, it will be to the body. But boxing is not that easy, and with adaptable fighters it becomes even less predictable, but the facts remain that Fury has been dropped several times, specifically by a big Neven Pajkic right over the top in 2011, and from a similar shot by Steve Cunningham in 2013.

He was dropped four times in three Wilder fights, twice in the first fight and twice in the third, and Francis Ngannou knocked him down last year with a left hook.

But all of those successes have been enjoyed by orthodox fighters. What does that mean for Usyk?

“I know Fury’s a different fighter but we were all talking about the size difference when Usyk fought AJ, and then literally the first 30 seconds or the first minute of the fight he hit AJ with a left hand. Usyk’s timing and judgment of distance is fantastic, and he throws that back hand not just straight, it’s a little looped sometimes, throws it to the body, he can clip you with a right hand if you fall short. 

“Just because someone’s taller, doesn’t mean they’re not going to fall short or over-commit with the jab if they can’t get the range on you. If Usyk does, it’s those little whipping right hooks over the top and I don’t expect Usyk to hurt Fury with a single shot, but it’s an accumulation. It’s always an accumulation with Usyk and he’ll use your hand position to set up his own attacks. 

“This is where Fury, when his hands are a bit lower and loose, I don’t expect Fury to be throwing much, but the minute you change hand positions and you put your hands up, then Usyk uses those hands, tip-tap, tip-tap, and then he’ll slip something in and get off to an angle.” 

Usyk’s Vulnerability Is To the Body – If You Can Get There

On the other hand, the consensus is that if Usyk is weak in any area, it might be downstairs.

As an amateur, so we’re going back, Usyk was hurt to the body by Kazakh Vassiliy Levit and dropped to the body by Artur Beterbiev, both times in 2011.

It was the same thing with Azerbaijan’s Magomedrasul Majidov in 2013, southpaw Krzysztof Glowacki had him over from a left to the body in 2016, although it was ruled a slip and Usyk’s balance was off. Then, of course, there was the controversial Daniel Dubois low shot last year, and the subsequent Dubois follow up assault on the body that had Usyk – at times – out of sorts, until Usyk did what Usyk does.

Coldwell spent a lot of time looking for chinks in Usyk’s armor, and he didn’t come up with much ahead of Bellew’s fight with the Ukrainian.

“That’s the most blatantly obvious thing that everybody’s going to be looking at, thinking that’s his weakness [to the body] but it’s not quite as simple as that for me because you’re fighting a man with great feet and people with great feet can take away body shots,” Coldwell stated. 

“That’s where we looked with Tony and what I wanted Tony to do was go to the body. But Usyk may take the odd shot, like the Dubois shot was a heavy one there, whether it was low or not it was uncomfortable… It was low but not low, if you know what I mean. The old school fighters used to hit them just under the belly button, they used to sink those shots in there where these days of these new protectors, it seems that that line on the protectors, you can’t hit there.

“Usyk’s smart enough that when he’s got caught with a shot, and he’s been caught by people who can bang, they’ve caught him, it’s registered, and then he takes away the next attack, so it’s not as easy as saying just go to his body.   

“Because Fury’s so much taller than him, unless you’re a very good body puncher, you can leave yourself exposed up top, so Fury’s got to be cute with it. He’s got to set up the body shots. It’s not just a case of marching in there and nailing him to the body.

“Don’t get me wrong, Fury will catch him with the odd body shot but to sustain it and be in that position he needs to get his feet right. His feet need to be immaculate where, just because he’s got height and range, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to close that range down if Usyk starts moving, because Usyk’s got great feet. We know that. He knows how to control the distance, how to get in, off the angles, so it’s not just a case of just throwing to the body.”

Will The Weight Of The Fighters Matter?

Fury weighed a career high 277 ¾lbs for the Ngannou fight, a fraction more than he tipped the scales for the up and down thriller trilogy fight with Wilder. 

But arguably Fury’s best performance came in the second fight with Wilder, when he weighed 273lbs. The WBC champion was electric that night, and Wilder was destroyed.

But, through the years, his weight has varied greatly, and not just out of the ring. Fury has come in between 240 and 280lbs throughout his career and there’s not really a peak weight that stands out.

In comfortable wins, he was 268 ¾ for the third Chisora fight, a one-sided battering, and he got rid of German Thomas Schwarz quickly while weighing 263 ½.

Neven Pajkic bowled him over with a huge right hand with Fury weighing 257, just three pounds more than when, weighing 254, Cunningham drilled him with the same shot, and he weighed just half a pound more when he struggled to a win over Otto Wallin in Las Vegas.

Fury was 256lbs in the first Wilder fight, the night he rose of the canvas in the ninth and, miraculously, in the 12th, but he was imperious against Dillian Whyte at Wembley Arena weighing 253 1/4lbs.

Interestingly, arguably his best and worst performances came at 247lbs, when many thought he’d lost a decision early in his career to John McDermott in their first contest in 2009 and six years later he was also 247lbs when he defeated Wladimir Klitschko in Germany.

There is no rhyme or reason to the weights and the performances, other than the Klitschko win and the second Wilder victory were almost 30lbs apart but the strategy for both was different.

The only consistency is the inconsistency.

Coldwell, however, will be interested to see what Usyk weighs in at on Friday. Usyk has weighed 221 ¼, 221 ½ and 221 in his last three fights over three years. That is consistent.

“I want to wait for the weigh-in, and see what Usyk weighs,” said Coldwell. “We know Fury looks so much lighter than he has before, but I want to see what Usyk weighs. I think that Usyk at heavyweight is a little bit too square, almost too stocky and a bit bulky in comparison to how Usyk was as a cruiserweight. What I mean by that is his movement is a little more restricted, he’s a bit slower and he doesn’t do as much in terms of non-punching activity and little triggers and little twitches because he’s not as light. Five-six pounds isn’t going to make much difference, but it does make you sharper, more mobile, because they’re your assets, because the asset for Usyk isn’t just getting into a clinch fest and being strong, it’s going to be the sharpness.”

Coldwell also points out that Fury’s apparent significant weight loss might not be a positive sign for the Englishman and that, at this stage of his career, it might affect Fury’s legs.

What If Fury Boxes Southpaw – As He Has Done Before?

Well, Usyk completed his public workout in the orthodox stance, further throwing the cat among the pigeons, only for Fury to do his as a southpaw, with trainer SugarHill holding the pads in an orthodox stance. Gamesmanship? Red herrings? Pointless? Or just an attempt at mind games?

Fury has dominated some fights as a left hander, notably Dereck Chisora in their second bout, but he struggled to have success changing stances against Ngannou who, incidentally, did okay when he went leftie on Fury.

“I think he [Fury] wasn’t effective against Ngannou [as a southpaw] because if you look at Fury’s fights, Fury always has that reach on everybody he fights, even if he’s quite tall he always has that reach,” Coldwell added. “Whereas Ngannou was shorter but he had the same reach as Fury.

“I think that caught him by surprise and he looked uncomfortable in throwing. Normally he could throw and because of his reach he could step back and be out of range again, with Ngannou he couldn’t.

“That’s why Ngannou was catching him on his way back out which made him a bit more reluctant to throw.” 

What Will Be The Keys To Victory?

You could make a case that neither fighter is in the position to take advantage of these so-called weaknesses. Fury does not have a carousel of Micky Ward body-punch knockouts, and will have to surrender height and reach advantages to work inside, while Fury’s past susceptibility to the right hand of an orthodox fighter may not see him as vulnerable against a southpaw left hand, particularly from a man who is so much smaller. Maybe the big southpaw left hand against Fury in the southpaw stance is the one?

“I watched the second [Deontay] Wilder fight today,” Coldwell added. “Thinking Fury might go out and put it on Usyk rather than do what he did with Wladimir Klitschko and made him come to him.

“That was a fantastic performance. 

“But Wilder is nothing, nothing like Usyk when it comes to boxing ability, boxing at range, feet, mobility. Wilder looked poor stood there in front of him. Just because he did that to Deontay Wilder doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for him just because Usyk’s physically smaller. Usyk’s more mobile. And when you look at his fights, as soon as someone puts it on him, Usyk gets on his bike. He doesn’t just take a step here and there, he actually just goes, on a circle. He’s gone. Then you’ve got to track him down again. You’ve got to get your range again. 

“The key for Fury is his little feints and his jabs, because those little feints, they offset everybody. It’s like a little twitch or jerk, but it’s what helps him to get his jab off. It’s the jab downstairs. It’s the straight shots downstairs. It’s not a case of getting in there and whacking around the sides, because that will leave him vulnerable if he doesn’t set it up. 

“Whenever Usyk becomes a stationary target and stands there, the minute he’s on the ropes or anything like that, bring your back foot in behind the straight shots and then go downstairs. Then you’re at your own range.

“It’s a really intriguing fight. I can see ways both men can win.”

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