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Tyson Fury refuses to look Oleksandr Usyk in the eye in face-off

By Vincent Ashitey
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Tyson Fury refused to look Oleksandr Usyk in the eye as the two world champions came head to head before Saturday's undisputed heavyweight title fight.

The winner will be crowned the division's first undisputed champion in the four-belt era and arguably the greatest heavyweight of a generation.

But the two champions exchanged very few words in a pre-fight news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Fury – a showman whose antics at such events have created many headlines over the years – said he would keep it short and sweet and stuck to his words.

"I'm ready. I've got nothing to say. I'm ready for a good fight. If it's tough or easy. Either way I'll be ready,” the 35-year-old Briton said.

He thanked Usyk for agreeing to the fight. When asked if he had a message for the Ukrainian, Fury added: "God bless him. I'll say a prayer for him before the fight for us both to get out of the ring safely."

Usyk also did not want to engage in any pre-fight trash talk. "Let's make history. Enough," he said.

When the two came to the front of the stage for an obligatory face-off, Usyk stood sideways but Fury instead opted to face the crowd front on.

The Gypsy King placed his trilby hat on a member of security, sang along to the music, flexed his muscles and left the stage.

Poems and homework chat in low-key news conference

Around 2,500 British fans are expected at the Kingdom Arena on Saturday and a good few hundred were at Thursday's news conference at the Boulevard venue, although at times they were drowned out by a significantly smaller number of Usyk fans.

Drones hovered above in the clear Riyadh night sky, as the world's sweat-drenched media and photographers jostled for the best spot.

Boxing greats and former foes Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis watched on from the front row, while a number of 'A list' celebrities are expected to turn up on fight night.

Usyk's promoter, Alex Krassyuk, recited words from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem which was slightly lost on the boxing crowd.

"If I was you, I wouldn't worry about poets, I'd worry about your man on Saturday,” replied Fury's manager, Spencer Brown.

For a fight billed as 'Ring of Fire', neither man, quite surprisingly, brought the heat when it was time to talk.

Usyk - an Olympic gold medallist and former undisputed cruiserweight champion - is undefeated in 21 pro fights and holds the WBA, IBF and WBO belts.

He appeared more focused on doodling on a pad of paper than the news conference.

"It's my homework," Usyk joked, before adding it was a poem which he would share later.

WBC champion Fury has won 34 fights, with one draw, but only narrowly beat boxing debutant Francis Ngannou in October.

For months Fury has been belittling Usyk's heavyweight capabilities. This week, he has changed approach – complimenting his opponent as the best fighter he will ever face.

History already has its eyes on Fury-Usyk - analysis

Up until the face-off drama, the most entertaining part of the news conference were the champions' outfits.

Fury donned a suit covered in flames as well as his trilby, and Usyk also dressed to impress in an all-white suit with traditional Ukrainian embroidery.

The lack of theatrics followed a skirmish involving John Fury, the champion's father, earlier in the week.

Fury Snr was left bleeding from the head after video footage showed him appearing to headbutt a member of Usyk's team on Monday.

Some might read into Fury's refusal to lock eyes with Usyk and search for meaning.

Was it nerves? Mind games?

That aside, the news conference may have been a little dull, but history already has its eyes on Fury v Usyk.

We have the two best heavyweights of today, both on the cusp of legendary status. An event of this stature does not need hype and headbutts to create a sell.