Anthony Joshua wanted a knockout.
Entering the ultimate spherical of his heavyweight title protection in opposition to Oleksandr Usyk, Joshua, a power-punching 31-year-old from London, and one among boxing’s largest international stars, trailed on the judges’ scorecards, dropping rounds early to a smaller, craftier challenger. When the bell sounded, he pressed ahead.
But Usyk closed the present.
Usyk, an undefeated 34-year-old from Ukraine, landed a left and proper early, quieting the gang at a sold-out Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. Late within the twelfth, Usyk wobbled Joshua with a left hand, and a two-handed flurry of punches despatched Joshua to the ropes as the ultimate bell approached.
That emphatic final spherical carried Usyk to a unanimous determination win in a combat most observers anticipated him to lose. The judges scored the bout 117-112, 116-112, and 115-113, all for Usyk.
The end result quieted the roughly 70,000 spectators current, most of whom supported Joshua by singing in unison via the early rounds. But it didn’t shock Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight champion who moved as much as heavyweight in 2019.
“The fight went exactly the way I expected it to go,” stated Usyk, who's now 19-0. “There were a couple of moments where Anthony pushed me, but nothing special.”
Joshua entered the bout with pure benefits in measurement — he stands 6-foot-6, in contrast with 6-foot-3 for Usyk, and at 240 kilos he outweighed the challenger by greater than 18 kilos. He additionally held heavyweight championships from 4 totally different boxing governing our bodies: the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Organization, the International Boxing Federation, and the International Boxing Organization.
But Usyk, a calculating southpaw, confirmed up with superior footwork and gained the primary three rounds by discovering the most effective angles after which touchdown punches: A straight left that grabbed Joshua’s consideration in Round 1; a left to the top that buckled Joshua’s knees within the third. Usyk stated his early success tempted him to use extra strain, however then he remembered his recreation plan.
“In the beginning I hit him hard and tried to knock him out,” Usyk stated. “But then my trainers said stop and do your job.”
Joshua gained rounds mid-fight by counting on his jab and physique punching, dialing again his energy to extend his accuracy, and carrying Usyk down. By the tenth, Usyk had crimson marks underneath every eye, and a divot in his proper eyebrow. Joshua’s proper eye had additionally swollen, making him a neater goal for Usyk’s overhand lefts.
Leading as much as the combat, Joshua and his backers framed the occasion as a celebration — the primary stadium present and most-attended boxing occasion in England for the reason that coronavirus pandemic started. They additionally offered it as a kind of formality. Joshua confronted Usyk solely as a result of the World Boxing Organization mandated the combat, and Joshua and his promoters at Matchroom Boxing spoke brazenly about matching with the winner between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, who're scheduled to combat Oct. 9.
A heavyweight megafight would have made monetary sense. Joshua attracts a large viewers. His Instagram account boasts 12.9 million followers, and his title-winning conquer Vladimir Klitschko drew 90,000 spectators to London’s Wembley Stadium in April of 2017.
Instead, Usyk and Joshua supplied one other instance of how rapidly the heavyweight panorama can change.
In mid-May, Hearn and Fury every introduced an settlement for a midsummer title unification bout between Fury and Joshua in Saudi Arabia. But days after that deal went public, an arbitrator within the United States ordered Fury to face Wilder, who had invoked his rematch clause after dropping to Fury in February 2020, and had filed swimsuit to implement it.
That authorized determination torpedoed Joshua-Fury, and led to Joshua’s bout with Usyk, which resulted in an upset that may have promoters recalibrating plans.
Moments after the bout, Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, stated the now former champion would doubtless train his contractual proper to a direct rematch.
“For me, he’ll go straight into the rematch,” Hearn stated. “But he’ll have to bring something different.”
But Usyk informed an in-ring interviewer that he hadn’t seen his youngsters in months, and that he wanted household time.
“I’m not thinking about the rematch at the moment,” he stated.