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Low-blow call helps Usyk come back to KO Dubois and keep heavyweight boxing titles

After a controversial win to retain his heavyweight boxing titles, Oleksandr Usyk had a message for Tyson Fury.

“I’m ready tomorrow,” the Ukrainian declared on Saturday when asked about a long-awaited and elusive unification fight with Fury.

This was after Usyk stopped British challenger Daniel Dubois in the ninth round. That win followed a disputed low blow which gave the Ukrainian champion time to recover.

Fighting for the first time in more than a year and cheered on by fans waving Ukrainian flags, Usyk knocked down Dubois in the eighth round. Referee Luis Pabon stopped the fight when Usyk dumped him again in the ninth with a stiff right to the jaw.

The fight was halted in the fifth round for what Pabon ruled was a low blow by Dubois which sent Usyk to the canvas, where he sat against the ropes. Replays showed the punch hitting around Usyk’s belt. It was not given as a knockdown but nor were any points deducted from Dubois, and Pabon urged Usyk: “Take your time.”

The Ukrainian seemed to lack some of his usual speed after that as Dubois continued to target the body, but he recovered to knock down Dubois twice and take the win.

Dubois said he was “cheated out of victory tonight” over the low-blow call. His promoter Frank Warren suggested there could be a rematch. Asked about the incident Usyk said, “Boxing, it’s tough sport, yeah? But I’m great.” He added that he respects his opponent “but it’s boxing, it’s not ballet.”

Usyk remained unbeaten at 21-0 after his second defence of the WBA, IBF and WBO belts he took from Anthony Joshua in 2021 and held after a rematch a year later.

Dubois’ win-loss record dropped to 19-2.

It was only Usyk’s fifth career fight at heavyweight and his fourth in a row against British boxers.

It was essentially a home fight for Usyk in Poland, which neighbours Ukraine and has taken in many Ukrainians who left the country since Russia invaded last year. A message was shown from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who likened Usyk’s strength to that of the Ukrainian people and compared Dubois to the country’s friends abroad.

Usyk himself is from Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. After the fight, he said he was “grateful for my country and for (the) Ukrainian army,” to cheers from the 40,000 fans at the soccer stadium venue.

The win could mean a new push for a unification fight with WBC titleholder Fury, to crown the heavyweight division’s first undisputed champion since 2000. Talks to stage that fight collapsed this year, prompting Usyk to take on Dubois, the WBA mandatory challenger.

Fury has a non-title boxing match with former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia in October. Another opponent for Usyk could be unbeaten Croatian Filip Hrgović, the IBF mandatory challenger. Usyk seemed less enthusiastic about a potential Hrgović matchup than a fight with Fury, saying it would be a matter for his promoter and his manager and that he needed rest. “I go drink sparkling water,” he said.

‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed’s son Aadam wins one-sided first fight

Aadam Hamed, 23-year-old son of Britain’s former world champion ‘Prince’ Naseem, won his first fight on Saturday on the undercard of the heavyweight world title bout in Poland between Oleksandr Usyk and Daniel Dubois.

His 17-year-old Czech opponent Vojtech Hrdy lasted two minutes and nine seconds of a one-sided first round at Wroclaw’s open-air Tarczynski Arena before a towel was thrown into the ring.

“That was my first fight ever, not just my pro debut,” said super-welterweight Hamed.

“It was a blessing to be here in front of everyone… I felt like I put on a performance and it’s only going to get bigger and better from here.”

Hamed Senior was famed for his spectacular ring entrances and held multiple featherweight world titles in a career lasting from 1992 to 2002. – REUTERS

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