Oleksandr Usyk is the new unified heavyweight world champion after dethroning Anthony Joshua with an incredible performance in London.
The Ukrainian staged a masterclass in front of 65,000 fans inside Tottenham Hotspur stadium, outscoring Joshua in 12 rounds and injuring the defending champion on several occasions.
The scorecards – 117-112, 116-112, 115-113 – were all for Usyk and Joshua just shrugged as the second loss in his professional career was confirmed.
After seeing a fight with fellow Brit Tyson Fury crumble last summer, Joshua has chosen to face his obligatory WBO challenger and former undisputed cruiserweight champion Usyk instead.
It seemed like the easiest fight for Joshua, but boxing’s triumphant return to stadium nights was marred for the home crowd by a truly outstanding performance from the challenger.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn suggested his fighter may have suffered a fractured orbit and should be hospitalized.
“I don’t know if he broke his eye socket, that doesn’t look great,” he said. “He said he couldn’t see after the ninth round, obviously he was also affected a lot. “
Devastated Joshua left the ring immediately after the decision but later posted a short message on Twitter, saying, “Stay positive even if the world is crumbling in front of you!” London I love you and I thank you every time! “
Pure Class Usyk vs. Joshua at One Speed
Joshua was relaxed and cheerful as he approached the ring, but concentration was etched on his face from the first bell.
Usyk’s abilities quickly became apparent, the 34-year-old full of feints and rhythm from the start, moving Joshua around the ring at will as the defending champion settled into a surprisingly passive role.
A few warning shots from Joshua failed in the opening laps, with Usyk catching them with a glove or scurrying away. It would become the model of the fight as Usyk messed up Joshua and executed his own perfect game plan.
A left center from Usyk rocked Joshua in the third round and elicited a boisterous response from the crowd.
Joshua straddled the danger, not responding, but reaching for the bell safely. Usyk was now overflowing with confidence and the London crowd tried in vain to wake their man.
A low shot from Joshua brought one complaint from Usyk and Joshua shot another, possibly sensing weakness in his opponent. The fifth round was Joshua’s best at this point, but Usyk remained in control and the Briton continued to miss his attempts to land meaningful shots.
Finally, in round six, Joshua put his right hand down, triggering a response from Usyk, who widened his stance and looked ready to trade. Joshua stepped back, suspicious of a firefight.
And Joshua’s fears came true in the seventh as Usyk responded brilliantly to stun him with a left hook to his chin and send him tripping back. Joshua remained standing, surviving the turn but now in dire straits.
Usyk was comfortably ahead on the scorecards and Joshua struggled to close the gap. The enormous weight advantage was nowhere in evidence, Usyk keeping the fight at bay and Joshua’s corner urges to move forward seeming to fall on deaf ears.
Joshua briefly had Usyk on the ropes in the ninth, but returned to his corner with a bloody nose after catching a hard blow to the face in the closing seconds of the lap.
There was blood on both men’s faces in the 11th round. Joshua had a cut and swelling in his eye; Usyk had a gash in his left eye. But with Usyk’s mouth open, he was by far the busiest fighter on the penultimate round, outscoring Joshua again with ease.
The crowd desperately tried to inspire the defending champion, who needed a knockout in the final round. But it was the challenger who almost found the decisive punch, pushing a dazed Joshua into the ropes.
The bell saved Joshua from suffering another knockout loss and there was a nervous wait for Usyk’s team for the scorecards.
However, there was no longer to be a shock, as the three judges gave it to the challenger and ended Joshua’s short second reign as world champion after just one fight.
Joshua has gone to a crossroads
We don’t know where Joshua is going from here. There is a revenge clause, which the two-time world champion is likely to exercise.
He now has two losses under his belt and in both cases the Briton was outscored by a shorter man. Usyk didn’t find the finishing blow, but he exposed Joshua’s weaknesses and his somewhat light attacking arsenal.
Joshua had no response from Usyk and as his opponent slid into the ring, the champion seemed to be dragging his feet in the mud. There was no attempt to intimidate Usyk, exhaust him, or go to the body.
It was a strange and almost unfortunate display of Joshua leaving his legacy as one of the great heavyweights in shambles.
Long-term career prospects for the Briton aside, Joshua vs. Fury now appears to be dead.
Fury fights Deontay Wilder next month in Las Vegas and every fight fan’s biggest fear came after the unification fight collapsed last summer.
For starters, Joshua will need to win his rematch with Usyk who, following Saturday night’s meeting, seems an almost impossible prospect.
“AJ gave Usyk too much respect”
Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn said his fighter gave Usyk too much respect and would need to make “fundamental changes” to reclaim his titles.
“We knew it [defeat] could happen if he didn’t do it right, and he didn’t do it right, ”Hearn told BBC Radio 5 Live. “He took too many hits early on and Usyk was more aggressive than I thought he was and he was the deserved winner.
“Tony Bellew’s comments about overthinking, and it got tired of you, was correct. It’s like the last three or four days you get spellbound by Usyk and you end up giving him too much respect and it becomes a problem. “
Hearn said Joshua is already thinking about how to beat Usyk next time around.
“He’s going to go and all he’ll do is think of Oleksandr Usyk.” He will ask himself ‘how can I beat him, how can I improve?’ He’s obsessed with improvement, ”Hearn said.
“I just feel like there’s so much more Anthony Joshua in this fight, but he’ll have to do a lot more in the rematch to be victorious. “