Is Oleksandr Usyk facing Tyson Fury at just the right time? | Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images

Oleksandr Usyk may be 12 rounds from boxing immortality on Saturday.

It’s an old adage in boxing that precision beats power and timing beats speed. And this saying is also conducive to analysis outside of the ring as we narrow in on this Saturday’s undisputed heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk.

At their final press conference last night dripping in the heat of the Saudi desert, both Fury and Usyk decided that enough talking had been done ahead of Saturday’s opening bell. Fury said a prayer for himself and his foe, while Usyk’s broken English detailed that he was ready to make history.

With nothing but a ceremonial weigh-in now separating the pair from locking heavyweight horns, it dawned on the baying public that it was time to make a decision: Fury or Usyk?

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When your boxing opinion holds weight amongst casual friendship groups, a desire to dig deep into reasoning behind your pick can often leave you tying yourself in knots — you feel obliged to add as much detail as possible without committing fully either way. If anyone tells you they know the result of Saturday night’s fight with any confidence, they are lying to you.

But for a fight of this magnitude you are almost bullied into picking a side. Like the front pages of the national newspapers the day before a big election. Are you red or blue?

I was tempted at compiling a list of desirable attributes for a heavyweight in a fight of such magnitude and comparing Fury and Usyk’s scoring on each. Like a game of Top Trumps — edges in reach and power sit with Fury, whilst speed and footwork with Usyk. But in the end I settled on a more holistic and generalised opinion that Usyk’s timing holds the key to victory in Riyadh this weekend, against a giant in Fury that is ready to fall…

It’s impossible not to draw the conclusion that Tyson Fury is past his best. And on Saturday night he mixes it with the best fighter he has ever shared a ring with. Usyk now looks a fully-fledged heavyweight after moving up from a dominant cruiserweight reign and with Fury slimming down ahead of the 36th fight of his 16-year pro career, the toll that his weight fluctuations have had on his body are primed to tell.

The cut that postponed their original February 18 date also can’t be ignored. Scar tissue is evident on the eyelid of Fury and Usyk’s killer instinct won’t hesitate in targeting this area. Fury showed his ability to deal with a cut in his victory over Otto Wallin, but to say it was convincing would be an untruth.

I’m reluctant to read too much into Fury’s most recent display against Francis Ngannou, but as underprepared as he was for that meeting with the MMA star, it once again underlined his fragility to shots high on the head.

Sure, he recovered, like he has done every time he has been knocked down as a professional (seven times), but Usyk’s ability to attack with more precision and effectiveness than those that have tried to put Fury away before means Fury may have to rely on even more powers of recovery at the age of 35.

“A good biggun will always beat a good littlen” is a red herring in this fight. We are in an age of the giant heavyweights at current, but some of the very best to have done it have been at the size and shape that Usyk currently dons. A big heavyweight will usually prefer fighting someone of the same height, and the four (?) inches that Usyk will give away to Fury may well work in his favour.

Opinions on Fury’s two (possibly three) wins over Deontay Wilder may have also skewed in recent months following the American’s dismal display against Joseph Parker in December. And if those results now hold less weight, then we are forced to go back to 2015 and a pre-weight-gain to see Fury’s standout performance against Klitschko in the 68th of the Ukrainian’s 69 fights.

My intention of this piece was honest. I wanted to walk the tightrope of prediction whilst leaving myself open to massage my opinion through a lens of hindsight on Sunday morning. But it has turned into a chest-beating, self-convincing pick for Oleksandr Usyk to beat Tyson Fury by late stoppage.

Because in boxing, as in life: timing is everything.

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