Oleksandr Usyk claims World heavyweight champion after defeating Anthony Joshua
Anthony Joshua’s reign as heavyweight world champion came to an end on Saturday, putting the planned “Battle of Britain” versus Tyson Fury in jeopardy.
This came after Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk won by unanimous decision at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
For this bout, Usyk was giving up three inches in height and four inches in reach, as well as nearly 20 pounds in weight.
However, in an electrifying atmosphere, the former undisputed world cruiserweight champion’s technical prowess shone through.
As his smaller opponent looked for a dramatic finish, Joshua finished the fight slumped against the ropes.
And, because it wasn’t forthcoming, Usyk won the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles after receiving unanimous approval from all three judges.
After a near-masterclass from the unbeaten Usyk, scores of 117-112, 116-112, and 115-113 were just reward.
After Evander Holyfield and David Haye, he became only the third fighter to win world titles at cruiserweight and heavyweight.
After a bout with Tyson Fury fell through earlier this year, Joshua was forced to face WBO mandatory challenger Usyk.
When the scores were announced, he appeared philosophical in accepting the loss, which was only his second in his career.
Joshua said on twitter afterwards: “Keep positive even if the world’s crumbling in front of you! London I love you and thank you each and every time!”
Usyk had to deal with the hostile atmosphere that greeted his entrance to the ring from the 66,267 fans in attendance, in addition to giving up significant physical advantages to Joshua.
But he maintained a laser-like focus throughout, and Joshua was baffled by his combination of speed and near-constant movement from an odd southpaw posture.
After a series of swift left hands hit their mark, Joshua’s right eye became increasingly inflamed as the bout progressed.
He was hit numerous times during the battle, most notably in the final seconds when a barrage of punches sent him flying back to the ropes.
Joshua was just surviving the onslaught when the judges decided to put him out of his misery.
Usyk, who stated earlier this week that his new shaved head and moustache were a homage to his Cossack lineage, subsequently said through a translator, “The fight went exactly as I expected it to go.”
“There were a couple of moments when Anthony pushed me hard but nothing special. I had no objective to knock him out because my corner pushed me not to do that.
“At the start, I hit him and tried to knock him out but my trainer said ‘just stop and do your job’.”
The 34-year-old Ukrainian, who won Olympic heavyweight gold the day before Joshua famously topped the super-heavyweight podium in London 2012, was slick.
As his opponent attempted, but failed, to establish his jab, he put in a slew of feints.
Usyk had only fought three times at heavyweight since moving up to boxing’s top category two years ago.
But, because Joshua was unable to get started, he established an early pattern of success.
In the third round, Usyk’s head was jolted back by a picture-perfect left-cross before the defending champion fired back a warning shot.
The challenger, on the other hand, had a wonderful start, with his main concern early on being a little cut beneath his right eye.
In the fifth and sixth rounds, Joshua showed off his right hand, which was arguably his strongest in the fight.
At the start of the second half of the bout, Usyk reasserted his dominance, sending Joshua staggering backwards before regaining his footing.
Even at this time, Joshua’s hold on his titles appeared to be eroding.
Joshua, who had acquired a welt under one of his eyes, gave a grateful nod to another savage left in the ninth.
In the championship rounds, both boxers appeared to slow down, although Usyk was still substantially faster than his opponent.
Joshua needed at least one or two knockdowns in the final round to make an impression on the judges.
But he couldn’t come up with anything, and it was Usyk who brought the spectacle to a stop as the bell saved his opponent.