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SPORTS UPDATE

Fury vs Usyk targeted for Dec. with Riyadh favourite to host bout

In many ways the weekend went as expected. Oleksandr Usyk repeated his victory over Anthony Joshua, retaining his WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles and then Tyson Fury announced he was ready to make his return to the ring to face the Ukrainian.

However, the man who said he was willing to face Anthony Joshua for free, was clearly not going to stick by that offer for a fight with Usyk.

“It’s going to be very expensive; so get your f*****g chequebook out and I will relieve the Ukrainian dosser of the belts,” Fury, the WBC heavyweight champion, said on social media.

Fury’s planned return is no surprise. Indeed, it is a wonder Fury was able to keep a straight face with his retirement talk, when even his wife and father were saying they did not believe it. Last week he had a lengthy video call with Mauricio Sulaiman, the WBC president, and apparently convinced him he was genuine with his exit plan.

But the plan was always for Fury to box the winner and some would even have you believe a deal was agreed to stage the fight back in Saudi Arabia, which is fast becoming a go-to venue for big heavyweight fights — it is certainly the one with deepest pockets.

The target date for the fight is believed to be December 17, the day before the World Cup Final in neighbouring Qatar.

Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Saud has been talking up bidding to stage the fight for the undisputed heavyweight title as part of a plan to bid for a number of big sporting events.

The heat of August meant Usyk-Joshua had to take place indoors in Jeddah, but a winter fight would more likely go to the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

“We’re interested. That’s all I can say,” Prince Abdulaziz said. “In the winter time, if it does happen, I think it will be hosted in Riyadh. But we still haven’t decided on anything.”

December seems a quick turnaround for Usyk, though, who had to prepare for his fight on the back of the war in his homeland.

Twice dates for the fight with Joshua were pushed back in order to accommodate Usyk, who was given special permission to leave Ukraine to prepare. He has not seen his children for months, having gone to different locations in Europe when he started his training camp.

His first promise is to spend some time with them before heading back to Kyiv to show solidarity with his compatriots.

The Saudis are really the only bidders in town for the fight. They pay the sort of site fees that blow the Las Vegas casinos out of the water. ­Neither could a stadium crowd in the UK get close to raising the kind of revenue needed, while it must be unlikely, anyway, that those involved would want to hang around until April when a large outdoor fight might be considered.

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