Tyson Fury sparring partner speaks out after causing cut that delayed Oleksandr Usyk fight

Tyson Fury’s sparring partner Agron Smakici has spoken out after causing the cut that led to the postponement of the Briton’s fight with Oleksandr Usyk.

Fury and Usyk were due to box in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 17 February, but it was revealed on Friday that the “Gypsy King” had suffered a cut above his eye in training. As a result of the injury, Fury vs Usyk has been delayed until 18 May, as the wait to crown a first undisputed heavyweight champion since 2000 continues.

A video seemed to show the moment in which Fury, 35, suffered the cut, with Smakici catching the WBC champion with an elbow in sparring. Now the 33-year-old Croatian has moved to dispel suggestions that the strike was intentional or that Fury faked the cut.

“Unfortunately it looks like bad news because I cancelled the biggest fight, but it wasn’t on purpose,” Smakici told iFL TV on Monday. “It was a punch, I threw a punch. I know I threw the punch, but he was pulling my head forward, and maybe [my punch] goes to the elbow.

“I was asking Mr Sugar [Sugarhill Steward, Fury’s coach]: ‘What sort of sparring should I do?’ He just said: ‘Do however you feel.’ I was trying to move around like Usyk, avoiding punches, hitting the body. He was really good, I can’t say he was not in shape or something like people are writing.”

Elaborating on the circumstances around the incident, Smakici – who has sparred Anthony Joshua in the past – said: “On Thursday, we did late evening sparring. We had breakfast at 11am [on Friday], and then they said we’re going to spar at 12pm. It was short notice, everybody was still struggling from the day before.

“Two days before, we also had conditioning training with him – we did all the stuff that he does. We were really trying to motivate him to do exactly what he’s doing [but] even better, to wake him up so he’s motivated and focused. Thursday was hard sparring, and Friday was too early for us to be honest – it was short notice. I was tired from the day before.

The cut that ruled Fury out of his fight with Usyk (@QueensberryPromotions via Instagram)
The cut that ruled Fury out of his fight with Usyk (@QueensberryPromotions via Instagram)

“He did some tricks, he likes to speak. ‘You little sausage, let’s go, come on.’ He’s the type like that. We had some stuff like that in the sparring, speaking like that. In the third round, it happened – the cut. Before that, it was interesting sparring, it was very good sparring.

“All the time we had headguards, big gloves [...] They put vaseline [on], so everything was really protected. He said just: ‘I’m bleeding, I’m cut.’ We didn’t know it was an elbow. It was not on purpose.”

Fury and Usyk are both unbeaten, with the Briton holding the WBC heavyweight title and the Ukrainian reigning as WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champion.

Fury last boxed in October, narrowly beating ex-UFC champion Francis Ngannou on points after recovering from a knockdown. The bout, which marked Ngannou’s boxing debut, was not a WBC title fight.

Usyk, 37, last fought in August, retaining the unified belts with a stoppage win over Daniel Dubois.