Usyk’s former trainer warns Fury to expect test of mental strength

Oleksandr Usyk’s former trainer, James Ali Bashir, has warned Tyson Fury that the unified world champion is willing to play Fury at his own game. Fury and Usyk meet on February 17 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to contest the undisputed championship, the first undisputed heavyweight title fight since Lennox Lewis fought Evander Holyfield in 1999. Fury, renowned for his mind games and mental strength, has now been warned to expect them from the unified heavyweight champion Usyk. Bashir worked with Usyk from 2013- 2017, and told Seconds Out the undisputed title fight will be a test of mental strength over physical capabilities. “He [Usyk] is going to be out there to win that fight because he knows what undisputed means,” Bashir said. “And so does Tyson Fury. That’s why I say it’s a tough fight. This is more of a mental fight than a physical fight. “I don’t think he [Fury] can tamper with Oleksandr Usyk’s mind. If anything, Oleksandr Usyk will tamper with Fury’s mind. I think that Oleksandr Usyk is a master of the mind games. I think that he is in this fight all the way.” Bashir, who assisted the legendary Emanuel Steward at the famous Kronk Gym in Detroit, warned Usyk not to expect the same Fury who faced Francis Ngannou in October. In the third round of a scheduled 10-round contest, Fury suffered a heavy knockdown although the Brit would climb from the canvas and fight to a scrappy split-decision win. “He [Usyk] has a very good opportunity,” Bashir added, discussing Usyk’s chances. “But the Tyson Fury that we saw in the Ngannou fight will be a far cry from the one that we will see in the Oleksandr Usyk fight. “Tyson Fury will be prepared to be a big guy, 6ft 9ins and 280 or 290lbs, whatever he is going to come in at. He is a good boxer, he is agile, he is slick, he is confident, and he knows what he is doing out there.” Ultimately, Bashir expects the winner to have to go the full 12 rounds. “I think this is going to be a tough fight for both guys,” Bashir added. “I think that Oleksandr Usyk has a good, good chance to edge Tyson Fury in this fight. I think that Tyson Fury will do what he does, put pressure on him, he will lay on him, the mauling, the brawling and he has a good jab. To be a big guy, he has a really good jab, knows how to work his weight, and is agile. “It’s a tough fight, but I can see Oleksandr Usyk winning a split decision, and I see Tyson Fury winning on unanimous decision. It’s a tough fight for both guys, but Oleksandr Usyk is not your run-of-the-mill fighter. He is a focused guy, he is a tough guy.”