LONDON – Oleksandr Usyk turned the heavyweight division upside down to become a two-weight world champion with a unanimous decision victory over Anthony Joshua for the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight world titles on Saturday.
The Ukrainian’s footwork kept him out of trouble as his precise jab and quick combinations piled on the points as he won by the judges’ scores of 117-112, 116-112, 115 -113 in front of Joshua’s 66,227 spectators at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs), 34, injured Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs), 31, in the third and seventh rounds and nearly finished the English boxer amid a furious attack at the end of the 12th round. Joshua will want a rematch, but he failed to seriously threaten Usyk, who was faster on the punch and more elusive.
Joshua, the naturally taller man who lost the titles for the second time in two years, now bears the considerable cost of yet another shock defeat that puts an end to his hopes of fighting English rival Tyson Fury for all four world titles. heavyweights next year.
“A devastating defeat,” said Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn. “Usyk is very fit, he has very good feet, he threw a lot of punches. It was a tough loss. [Joshua] was beaten by the best man on the night.
“He’ll want to come straight back into the rematch. The desire is still there. He can do so much better in this fight.”
WBC champion Fury defends his title in a third fight with American Deontay Wilder on October 9, but the winner of that fight could now continue a clash with Usyk, who won the titles in his third bout in the weights. heavyweights after unifying the four world heavyweights. titles in 2018.
Most of the world heavyweight title belts are now back in Ukrainian hands with the success of Usyk, after brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko dominated the division while reigning as champions from 2004 to 2015, including a period when they held the four belts between them. Vitali Klitschko was there at ringside in London to enjoy the moment.
Usyk, a mandatory challenger for Joshua’s WBO belt, became the third boxer to win world titles in cruiserweight and heavyweight after David Haye (England) and Evander Holyfield (United States). He started the fight as ESPN’s No.4 heavyweight.
Once again, the UK proved to be a happy hunting ground for Usyk, as this is his third victory here in three years, in addition to his Olympic gold in London 2012.
“The fight went exactly as I expected,” Usyk said.
“There were times when Anthony pushed me hard but nothing special. I had no goal of knocking him out. My corner urged me not to. You haven’t seen the best. Usyk. I can be much better. “
Joshua weighed 240 pounds, 19 pounds heavier than Usyk who, despite being the career heaviest 221 pounds, was still noticeably shorter than the ring champion. Joshua was also 3 inches tall and had a 4 inch reach advantage, but Usyk overcame all of those challenges with his quick moves, smart boxing skills, and courage.
Joshua, of Watford, took advantage of his first crowd at a large UK stadium in three years and looked relaxed as he walked into the ring amid a fireworks shootout. However, he tensed in the first round which allowed Usyk to score with more shots – including a right hook to the side of the header.
Usyk, from Kiev, is friends with and trains alongside Vasiliy Lomachenko, the brilliant lightweight who has won world titles in three weight classes. Like Lomachenko, Usyk has sublime footwork and, combined with his skillful southpaw skills, proved to be a hard target for Joshua to find. Usyk couldn’t put much weight into his shots in the second round, but managed to pass with a snake, left hand in the middle in another provisional, tight round.
Usyk continued to find openings, including a quick left hand that knocked Joshua down in round three. The champion smiled and wasn’t seriously injured, but his corner had to be concerned about Usyk’s growing dominance. Joshua responded with a stiff right hand in the fourth and tightened his defense to keep Usyk from getting anything.
The fourth round belonged to Joshua, who also landed a good right hand in the fifth round but was also caught by a few jabs. Usyk’s reliable right hand lead kept stretching as he sought to set up his left hand, but he finished sixth on the back foot as Joshua landed heavily, one hand only. law.
Usyk was better in the seventh, landing a meter on the left and then nearly ground Joshua later in the round. The Ukrainian grabbed Joshua with a left to the jaw that tripped the Englishman back as momentum reversed again. But Joshua responded with an aggressive eighth round, landing a right uppercut. Usyk then proved too elusive in the ninth.
Both had cuts around the right eye on round 10, and Joshua’s corner worked to reduce the swelling before round 11. With blood streaming down his face, Usyk landed a few punches at the start of the 11th to set up a crucial final session.
Usyk started out full of energy and hunger and bounced two left hands off Joshua’s head. Joshua continued to press but couldn’t find the punches to hurt Usyk. The challenger was busier and more daring and finished off the champion with a barrage of hooks that left Joshua slumped on the ropes and saved by the final bell. If there had been a few more seconds, Joshua looked like he had been stopped.