Saturday, October 23

How Oleksandr Usyk’s win over Anthony Joshua casts doubt on the future of the heavyweight division

Every boxing fan’s dream match was finally within reach.

Anthony Joshua, the holder of the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight belt, would overtake Oleksandr Usyk.

Tyson Fury, the WBC heavyweight champion, would once again defeat Deontay Wilder.

Nothing would stand in the way of Joshua and Fury entering the ring and battling for all four heavyweight belts. For the first time in more than two decades, a true unification fight would crown an undisputed heavyweight champion.

Usyk had other ideas.

The former cruiserweight champion surprised Joshua with a clinical performance on Saturday, dominating from start to finish for a unanimous decision (117-111, 116-112, 115-113) in front of 65,000 fans at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

MORE: Oleksandr Usyk Stuns Anthony Joshua With Unanimous Decision To Become Unified Heavyweight Champion

At 6’3 “and 221 pounds, Usyk was seen as a small heavyweight compared to Anthony Joshua, an established champion who outscored him at 6’6” and 240 pounds.

Although Usyk was successful in his first two fights at heavyweight, neither opponent was as tall as Joshua. In order for Usyk to have a chance, he would have to truly outmatch Joshua, who would undoubtedly be on the hunt for a knockout blow. That’s exactly what happened.

Usyk delayed boxing’s chance of an undisputed heavyweight title fight and is now the WBA (super), IBF and WBO heavyweight world champion.

As a step?

Usyk controlled the pace of Saturday’s fight from the opening bell, keeping Joshua off balance with his lateral movement and pace.

Usyk immediately attacked Joshua in the early rounds, hitting him with his straight left hand and right hooks as the champion seemed carefree and a bit nervous.

MORE: Boxing World Reacts To Oleksandr Usyk Upset With Anthony Joshua

Joshua was injured multiple times in Saturday’s fight, including in the fourth round with a wide left hook. Even as Joshua began to find a rhythm in the middle of the fight, Usyk responded with clean shots, preventing Joshua from establishing his jab or putting him on the ropes.

According to CompuBox, Usyk outscored Joshua 148 to 123. He recorded more punches in seven rounds, including a 29-9 lead in the 12th and final round in which he nearly knocked out Joshua.

“The fight went as expected,” Usyk said after the fight. “There were a couple of moments where Anthony Joshua pushed me hard, but nothing special.”

What happens next?

Joshua and Usyk had a rematch clause in their contract, and Joshua plans to exercise it, according to Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn.

“Anthony will go again”, Hearn told Sky Sports Boxing. “He’s been hit by the pound for pound, great fighter.”

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Hearn said Joshua “will want to go straight back to the rematch” with Usyk, although the new champion said he is not rushing to do so.

“I’ve been working really hard since January in preparation for this fight,” Usyk said. “It took me half a year and I didn’t see my family for so long. I miss my kids, I miss watching them play. I want to go home, I want to stay with my family, I want to be happy with them. I’m not thinking about rematch right now. “.

What does this mean for the heavyweight division?

Boxing has not had an undisputed heavyweight champion since November 13, 1999, when Lennox Lewis defeated Evander Holyfield to unify the WBC, WBA and IBF titles. Now the sport will have to wait even longer.

If Joshua won, he would have been in a position to face Fury, with whom he signed a two-fight contract in March to unify his titles. That is, if Fury defeated Wilder in his third fight on October 9.

Now, Joshua and Usyk are locked in for a second fight, keeping three of the main belts out for the winner of Fury and Wilder. This is the second time in the past three years that the heavyweight division has been denied an undisputed fight, as Joshua lost his titles by TKO to Andy Ruiz Jr. in June 2019, delaying a potential clash with Wilder. .

Fury, who is he now ESPNThe top-ranked fighter in the division, he previously planned his next five desired fights, which included a fight against Joshua in March. However, a second fight between Joshua and Usyk is likely to occur during that time, delaying a possible unification fight until late 2022 or early 2023.

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Looking to the future, even this far, feels premature.

Unlike that loss to Ruiz Jr., in which Joshua was simply caught off guard before returning to win the rematch comfortably in a unanimous decision, there are far fewer guarantees that Joshua will bounce back against Usyk, an extraordinary pound for pound that he overcame in boxing. the champion in fair and square. It’s not just what happened in the Saturday night stunner, it’s how it happened. Suddenly, that fight between Fury and Joshua doesn’t feel like a date with destiny.

Of course, there is also the possibility of Wilder throwing gasoline on the fire. As unlikely as it may be, all it takes is one hit for the Bronze Bomber on October 9 to unleash Fury and send the entire division into absolute pandemonium.

Buckle up because the next fight could create even more heavyweight turbulence.

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