He fell helplessly over the ropes, Anthony Joshua saluted the final bell, and what he knew was the end of his second reign as world heavyweight champion, with a wry smile.
Oleksandr Usyk knew it too, knelt down and looked up at the sky.
In just his third fight since exiting the cruiserweight division, Usyk delivered a moving clinic and quick punches to claim a unanimous points victory over Joshua in front of 66,267 stunned fans inside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Saturday.
Usyk became the third man, after Evander Holyfield and David Haye, to win world titles at cruiserweight and then heavyweight. Six years after Wladimir Klitschko’s long heavyweight reign ended, Ukraine has another champion in boxing’s top division.
“The fight went exactly as I expected,” Usyk said through a translator. “There were a couple of moments where Anthony put a lot of pressure on me, but nothing special.”
After the judges scored the fight 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113 in favor of 34-year-old Usyk, Joshua, with his right eye closed, walked to Usyk’s corner and congratulated the Ukrainian team.
Dominated by a smaller, lighter and much faster opponent, Joshua lost his WBA, WBO and IBF titles for the second time, more than two years after a loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. in New York that immediately took revenge. in Saudi Arabia.
Joshua will get a chance to do the same (there is a rematch clause in the Usyk deal) in an attempt to keep his ultimate goal alive: to become the undisputed champion. The British public, who have followed Joshua’s journey from Olympic champion to world champion, expected an all-British fight against WBC champion Tyson Fury to unify all four belts.
However, that seems fanciful now. Usyk was comfortably the safest fighter, his reflexes drew gasps from the pro-Joshua crowd and his lightning-fast punch from his left hand landed repeatedly.
Joshua just didn’t see the blows coming, like in the third round when his head was rocked back by a left straight before the Brit staggered after a left hook flush to the jaw.
Like in the ninth, when another Usyk left caught Joshua, who nodded to the challenger when the bell rang.
And especially in a sensational final round when the disparity between fighters was greatest when Usyk unleashed a flurry of punches, left to right, that saw Joshua stagger back against the ropes. In fact, he was saved by the bell.
Joshua couldn’t see with his right eye since the ninth round.
“I wasn’t aiming to knock him out because my corner pushed me not to do that,” Usyk said. “At first, I hit him and tried to knock him out, but my coach told me, ‘Just stop and do your job.’
Usyk moved up to heavyweight in 2019 after unifying all the cruiserweight belts, and he now has 19 consecutive professional victories.
His energy levels were remarkable, as shown in the final round and then after the result was announced, an eccentric Usyk entertained the crowd with an in-ring acrobatic dance.
Joshua fell in the second loss of his 25-fight professional career, this time to a man who followed him, just a day later, as Olympic champion at the London Games in 2012. His career is again at a crossroads.
“I’m not going home tonight crying about it,” Joshua said. “Because this is war. I can’t sulk. That’s wasting time. “
And there will be revenge.
“Oh, 100% … 110%,” Joshua said.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn said it will likely take place in February or March, and preferably in Britain.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism