Skip to content

Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk: WBC president explains why the Pope signed and blessed heavyweight championship belt

Tyson Fury fights Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed heavyweight championship bout on May 18 live on Sky Sports Box Office; The contest has attracted worldwide attention, including the Pope himself; Mauricio Sulaiman explains why the Pontiff signed the WBC belt

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Pope Francis blesses the WBC heavyweight belt that will be on the line when Tyson Fury faces Oleksandr Usyk in their upcoming fight live on Sky Sports Box Office on May 18

We knew the Tyson Fury versus Oleksandr Usyk heavyweight world title fight was attracting worldwide attention. We didn't realise that stretched all the way to the Vatican!

The Pope has signed and blessed the title belt that Fury and Usyk will box for on May 18.

Britain's Fury and Ukraine's Usyk will contest the first undisputed heavyweight title bout in 25 years, fighting for the WBC, WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight championships live on Sky Sports Box Office.

The Pope's signature on the WBC heavyweight title belt
Image: The Pope's signature on the WBC heavyweight title belt

The WBC has commissioned a new title belt for the Fury vs Usyk fight, with Ukrainian and British emblems on either strap. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman took the belt to the Pope, who blessed and signed it.

"Pope Francis has a foundation," Sulaiman told Sky Sports. "I learned there was a programme called Football with Values. I proposed to the Pope to do Boxing with Values. So he accepted, immediately embraced boxing.

"Since that day we have been doing a lot of activations and training and going out trying to teach values through boxing with thousands of people around the world.

"We have had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis, before the pandemic and now after the pandemic."

Also See:

As for whom the Pope is tipping to win the big fight, the Pontiff it transpires will remain studiously neutral.

"I brought the belt, he blessed the belt, he signed it. [The Pope] signed one side [on the strap] and he said I must sign the other side otherwise this fighter is going to think I'm cheering for him and not the other," Sulaiman revealed.

"Doesn't have a favourite. He's looking forward to May 18!"

Mauricio Sulaiman unveils the WBC belt
Image: Mauricio Sulaiman unveils the WBC belt

Boxing and the Holy See are a perhaps unlikely combination. But Sulaiman insists the Pope recognises the social values that the sport can embody.

"People are taken out of the streets to go into gyms," Sulaiman said.

"He [the Pope] himself made the comparison of the cobra and the mongoose. The mongoose is a little rat, the King cobra is the most terrifying snake and yet the mongoose beats the King cobra.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Speaking on the Toe2Toe podcast, WBC President Sulaiman details plans for a new six-judging scoring system proposal he hopes to implement in boxing

"And he makes that analogy saying that in life sometimes you have to know your weaknesses and your strengths, use them and always know the weakness of your enemy.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Sulaiman discusses why the WBC aims to implement 'fair' punishment for fighters who violate VADA's anti-doping policy

"So the mongoose uses speed and movement and beats a cobra. He told me that the first time I met him."

Whether the Pope thinks Usyk will be the mongoose to Fury's cobra, we do not know. We all have to wait till May 18 to find out.

Don't miss Fury vs Usyk live on Sky Sports Box Office.

Around Sky