Anthony Joshua’s bid to recapture the unified heavyweight titles resulted in disappointment as Oleksandr Usyk produced a terrific efficiency to win by cut up resolution in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
In a conflict billed because the Rage on the Pink Sea, a spirited Joshua, 32, confirmed some aggressiveness and intent – an enormous enchancment from their first combat – however couldn’t match the brilliance and ring savviness of the Ukrainian.
Two judges scored the combat 115-113 and 116-112 to Usyk, whereas a 3rd decide gave it 115-113 to the challenger. Whereas there have been some shut rounds, Usyk was the deserved winner.
On the finish of the combat, a livid Joshua – fairly bizarrely – picked up two of Usyk’s belts, dropped them on the ground and strode in direction of the dressing room, earlier than turning spherical and getting again into the ring to provide an impassioned speech.
“Usyk is one hell of a fighter. That is simply emotion,” he stated. “Should you knew my story, you’d perceive the eagerness. I am not an novice boxer. I used to be going to jail and I bought bail and I began coaching.
“It exhibits the eagerness we put into this. For this man to beat me tonight, it exhibits the degrees of exhausting work he should have put in, so please give him a spherical of applause as heavyweight champion of world.
“They stated that I am not a 12-round fighter. I ain’t 14 stone, I am 18 stone, I am heavy. It is exhausting work. This man right here is phenomenal.”
Joshua has now suffered back-to-back defeats in opposition to Usyk, with the champion retaining the WBA (Tremendous), WBO and IBF titles he gained in London final September.
Usyk calls out Fury
Joshua had some success within the combat – and loved his finest spherical within the ninth, charging Usyk down and unloading a flurry of punches, paying homage to the AJ of outdated.
However such is the brilliance of Usyk, he got here again combating within the tenth spherical and was touchdown clear blow after blow. Usyk landed a five-punch mixture, and Joshua grew to become a sitting duck.
Joshua fatigued and Usyk – who just some months in the past was defending his nation in opposition to the Russian invasion – took full benefit within the championship rounds.
“I dedicate this victory to my household, my nation, my staff, to all of the navy defending this nation – thanks a lot,” he stated, earlier than calling out WBC champion Tyson Fury.
“I am certain that Tyson Fury isn’t retired but. I am satisfied he needs to combat me. I need to combat him. If I am not combating Fury, I am not combating in any respect.
“Solely God is aware of whether or not I’ll combat him or not however all these gents right here round me, my staff, they will assist me.”
Fury lately introduced his retirement however has till 26 August to determine on whether or not he’ll relinquish the belt.
The Gypsy King took to social media to criticise each fighters, and will not but be performed with boxing. The carrot of a conflict with Usyk – one which would definitely cement the winner’s legacy as an all-time nice – is dangling.
Usyk shines in Jeddah
The boxers made their ring walks at roughly 01:00 native time. Even in these early hours, there have been temperatures of 30C, as roughly 12,000 followers stuffed out the air-conditioned King Abdullah Sport Metropolis Area.
A crowd that was considerably subdued for many of the night time got here alive as Joshua – the challenger – marched to the ring first. Jeers echoed across the area as Usyk adopted. It was clear who the fan favorite was.
Heading into the combat, there have been questions as to how nicely Joshua and new coach Robert Garcia had gelled, having solely began working collectively this 12 months.
The opening few rounds have been shut, however ones which Usyk most certainly edged. After three rounds, American Garcia instructed Joshua he had gained each spherical.
The champion was given time to get better within the fifth spherical after a Joshua low blow had him wincing. A two-punch mixture to Joshua’s midriff and head, from vary, was the choose of the sixth spherical.
Because the combat progressed, Usyk’s motion began to dictate the combat. He landed a counter left within the seventh, earlier than Joshua unloaded two good pictures to the physique within the eight.
Then got here the 2 of essentially the most memorable rounds, out of the 24 throughout two bouts, between the 2 fighters. Joshua gave it all the pieces within the ninth, and appeared to have Usyk in a spot of trouble. Maybe it was a ploy from Usyk to tire Joshua out. Within the tenth, he broke Joshua’s resolve – and went on to take the combat.
Did Joshua reply his critics?
Earlier than the combat, Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn insisted defeat wouldn’t spell retirement however described the bout as must-win.
After a 3rd loss in 5 bouts, Joshua now has to resurrect his profession. However he can take positives from his efficiency. His repute and legacy have been dealt a blow, however maybe not as heavy as many predicted.
In June 2019, Joshua suffered a stunning knockout defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr in New York. Six months later, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Joshua recaptured his heavyweight crown with a disciplined factors win.
Beating Usyk, nonetheless, was a very totally different problem. Joshua was in in opposition to a pound-for-pound star – the trickiest of southpaws. And he was going through a patriotic Ukrainian decided to deliver some much-needed pleasure to a nation torn aside by means of warfare.
Boxing followers wished to see some coronary heart and combat from Joshua. Within the tenth spherical, when below assault from Usyk, he barked “come on” at his opponent.
Such is the beast of heavyweight boxing and the extent of fame bestowed on Joshua, there’ll at all times be critics. This time, although, maybe not for his efficiency, however for his post-fight interview.