UKRAINE’S Oleksandr Usyk was never going to lose. Or, more accurately, he would do everything he possibly could to ensure he did not. After taking a break from fighting for his country against Russia, he again outpointed Anthony Joshua in their rematch and again proved himself superior.
Yet when the scores were announced and the realisation it was a split decision took hold, a sense of dread replaced that feeling of destiny. Thankfully, the right man got the deciding vote.
Usyk – from Boxing News’ point of view – won substantially more rounds than he lost. That he did lose rounds, however, is testament to Joshua’s evolving skillset and will to win. In the coming days and weeks, he should only be proud of that. He pushed Usyk further than he’d been pushed before. Hurt him more, too.
Joshua did the unexpected and attempted to outbox the master boxer. It was a tactic that failed miserably 11 months ago. But in Jeddah, “AJ” exhibited his improvement as he raided Usyk’s body when close and did his best to establish control behind his jab. Largely, he found his opponent too good and too evasive but he had far more success this time.
Those blasts to the midsection even threatened to stop Usyk on occasion. In the ninth round in particular, the heavyweight champion looked in trouble. Joshua raided with purpose and Usyk was hurt.
But the champion showed exactly why he’s a champion in round 10. He took the fight back to the Englishman, countering with verve and then attacking with panache. Suddenly, after briefly losing control of the contest, he looked on the brink of winning it via stoppage. Credit to Joshua, too, for surviving the storm.
Usyk bossed rounds 11 and 12 to put the icing on a cake that has been baking for a long time. BN scored the bout 117-111 in his favour. But Glenn Feldman, a vastly experienced official, scored the contest 115-113 for Joshua. Thankfully, Steve Gray (115-113) and Viktor Fesechko (116-112) saw things differently. Oleksandr the Great celebrated.
And then it happened. Joshua, seemingly convinced he’d won, dumped two championship belts out of the ring and stormed from it. As he approached the corridor to take him to his dressing room he turned, visibly furious, and walked back to the ring. His subsequent address, via a microphone he requested, was absurd. But don’t judge him too harshly for that. Boxers who have just endured such a hard time, both physically and mentally, should be kept away from microphones. His management team, usually so protective of their cash cow, merely stood and watched. Joshua will unquestionably regret his actions today. He should not regret his performance, though. He showed how very good he has become.
Throughout, Usyk kept his cool. Like he always does. A fighter and man of enviable values, he can be content that he is without question the best active heavyweight on the planet. Only Tyson Fury – apparently in the midst of retirement – can argue with that.
Fury predictably posted a video of himself declaring he plans to come back, if the money is right of course. It’s a fight the sport wants but the Gypsy King’s incessant contradictions are growing tiresome. Retire, or don’t. But, please, spare us the melodrama while you make up your mind.
For now, Usyk stands above them all. Inside the ring and out, he has proved himself to be the king.