Anthony Joshua’s bid to recapture the unified heavyweight titles resulted in disappointment as Oleksandr Usyk produced a terrific efficiency to win by break up determination 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 choose 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 the direction of the dressing room, earlier than turning spherical and getting again into the ring to offer an impassioned speech.
“Usyk is one hell of a fighter. That is simply emotion,” he stated. “In case you knew my story, you’d perceive the fervour. I am not an beginner boxer. I used to be going to jail and I obtained bail and I began coaching.
“It reveals the fervour we put into this. For this man to beat me tonight, it reveals the degrees of exhausting work he will need to 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 Ukrainian 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 previous.
However such is the brilliance of Usyk, he got here again preventing within the tenth spherical and was touchdown clear blow after blow. Usyk landed a five-punch mixture, and Joshua turned a sitting duck.
Joshua fatigued and Usyk – who only a few months in the past was defending his nation in opposition to the Russian invasion – took full benefit within the championship rounds.
“I commit this victory to my household, my nation, my crew, to all of the army defending this nation – thanks a lot,” he stated, earlier than calling out WBC champion Tyson Fury.
“I am positive that Tyson Fury will not be retired but. I am satisfied he needs to combat me. I need to combat him. If I am not preventing Fury, I am not preventing 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 crew, they’re going to 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 should not but be accomplished with boxing. The carrot of an conflict with Usyk – one which will surely 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 a lot of the night time got here alive as Anthony Joshua – the challenger – marched to the ring first. Jeers echoed across the area as champion Usyk adopted. It was clear who the fan favorite was.
Heading into the combat, there have been questions as to how effectively Joshua and new coach Robert Garcia had gelled, having solely began working collectively this yr.
The opening few rounds had been shut, however ones which Usyk more than likely edged. After three rounds, American Garcia informed 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 decide 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 sensible photographs to the physique within the eight.
Then got here the 2 of probably the most memorable rounds, out of the 24 throughout two bouts, between the 2 fighters. Joshua gave it every little thing within the ninth, and appeared to have Usyk in a spot of hassle within the ninth. 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 popularity and legacy have been dealt a blow, however maybe not as heavy as many predicted.
In June 2016, 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 dealing with a patriotic Ukrainian decided to deliver some much-needed pleasure to a nation torn aside by struggle.
Boxing followers wished to see some coronary heart and combat from Joshua. Within the tenth spherical, when underneath 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.