Saturday, November 27

Oleksandr Usyk Defeats Anthony Joshua to Claim World Heavyweight Title | Boxing

Oleksandr Usyk is the new WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight world champion then, in a fascinating display of skill and courage, he outpointed Anthony Joshua to win a clear and unanimous decision. His awe-inspiring victory came as no surprise because the undefeated Ukrainian is a former undisputed world cruiserweight champion, and prior to the fight, there was widespread consensus among boxing connoisseurs that Usyk is a much more natural and talented fighter than Joshua.

The highly confident new champion displayed his enviable ability in the ring throughout the fight and, long before the end, Joshua looked bummed and a bit lost. The outgoing champion’s enormous physical advantages over Usyk mattered little on a night when intelligence and skill triumphed over brute force. In the end, it was Joshua who was being hit against the ropes and appeared to be close to being stopped. He stuck out his tongue at Usyk, but it was a gesture of defiance and sadness. Usyk simply exerted more pressure before the final bell confirmed his victory.

From the first round, Usyk took over. Rather than backing off and fighting at a distance, the Ukrainian stood his ground in the center of the ring and began to set up movement puzzles that unsettled and even baffled the more physically imposing Joshua. By the third, the pattern of the fight was established and a big left rocked Joshua. His head spun on the giant base of his neck and he seemed briefly stunned.

Usyk’s clever use of feints and small motion drops never allowed Joshua to calm down and as the fight unfolded it was clear that the outgoing champion was struggling. A swelling formed around his left eye and he needed his trainer, Robert McCracken, to cheer him on.

Oleksandr Usyk knocks down Anthony Joshua
Oleksandr Usyk knocks down Anthony Joshua. Photograph: Tom Jenkins / The Observer

Joshua switched to the body with some success and won fifth and seemed to be gaining parity in the middle of the stage. But Usyk remained cool and Joshua failed to gain lasting momentum. In the seventh round, a left hook from Usyk staggered Joshua and the Ukrainian followed with even more accurate shots.

Joshua, who seemed exhausted and tired, was reduced to a crosswalk and Usyk continued dictating. Even when he was cut off in the ninth round, the challenger remained cool as the swelling under Joshua’s right eye had worsened. Later in the fight, Usyk again forced Joshua back with a stabbing combination and then a short, handcuffed right hand. Joshua was exhausted and struggling to see the blows flying towards him.

When they came out for 12, Joshua needed a save, but Usyk remained the most destructive puncher. The judges scored the fight 117-112, 116-112 and a less accurate 115-113 in favor of Usyk.

Joshua could have avoided Usyk because he acknowledged months ago that outside of Tyson Fury, the Ukrainian posed the biggest threat in the heavyweight division with his technical prowess and solid experience. They both won Olympic gold at London 2012, but Usyk had 350 fights in the unpaid ranks. Joshua, by contrast, had just 35 matches as a fan. The difference was obvious in the professional ring. Usyk offered a litmus test and Joshua, for all his courage, was left very exposed.

Oleksandr Usyk celebrates just after the final bell when Anthony Joshua sits in his corner
Oleksandr Usyk celebrates just after the final bell when Anthony Joshua sits in his corner. Photograph: Tom Jenkins / The Observer

Usyk’s bravery should also be recognized. This was only his third fight as a heavyweight and while Joshua chose to enter the ring considerably lighter than usual, there was a 19-pound weight difference. Joshua, at 6-foot-6, is also three inches taller than Usyk with a four-inch advantage in his reach. These physical attributes, allied to Joshua’s heavy blows, threatened to be too much for the smaller man to surpass. But Usyk fought with a trademark heart and skill and proved he could handle the chilling impact of one of the biggest hitters in the business. Evander Holyfield is the best example of a cruiserweight who made the transition to boxing’s premier division, but Usyk now joins such an exalted company.

His impressive victory, which is easily the most significant victory of his career thus far, shatters the heavyweight division. There was an assumption among Joshua’s team that a hard-won victory over Usyk would open the door to the resumption of talks with Fury’s camp for a unification battle between the two British fighters, who had held all of the major world titles from heavyweight between them. But, for now, heavyweight boxing has been tipped on its axis by the brilliant Usyk as he achieved this defining and memorable victory.

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Joshua, meanwhile, will struggle to overcome the second painful loss of his career. He lost for the first time in June 2019, in a shocking stoppage loss to Andy Ruiz Jr, but won the rematch six months later. The big difference now is that, unlike the ill-disciplined and ill-conditioned Ruiz Jr, Usyk has the skill and determination to hold on to his new titles for a much more sustained period. The 34-year-old is a hardened supreme champion who, on his way to finally climb to the top of heavyweight boxing, had won test fights in hostile territories from Riga to Moscow to Manchester, and now Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. , where the vast army of supporters of the defeated Joshua was stunned by the rise of a new king of heavyweight boxing.

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