Anthony Joshua was defeated again by Oleksandr Usyk’s dazzling fist, but found redemption by pushing the Ukrainian pound-for-pound star to the limits of his endurance.
Joshua struggled to make a split decision at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City Arena with scores of 113-115, 115-113 and 116-112.
However, Usyk retained his WBA, IBF and WBO titles and set up a possible unification fight with Tyson Fury, but was injured several times by a transformed underdog from the first meeting at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. I did
Joshua lacked the gas or the class to regain his belt, but went out with the shield in a thriller redeeming his passive viewing in London almost a year ago.
Usyk once again operated on another level, his movement and ringcraft keeping him away from the Briton’s most dangerous shots, but his accuracy and the amount of work he put in swept him away, placing him on the scorecards. I was put in charge.
Joshua is no longer the dominant force in the division, and another disappointment was his angry reaction after the fight when he grabbed two of Usyk’s belts and dropped them out of the ring.
He also confronted the champion and asked how he won, before requesting a microphone to address the crowd.
“I’ll tell you my story. I was going to jail. I was released on bail and started training my butt. I guess.
“I could have done better, but it showed that he must have tried so hard to beat me.
“I’m not a 12-round fighter.
“It’s hard work. This guy here is a phenomenal talent. We root for him.”
Usyk’s victory was based as much on resilience as it was on skill before surviving a sustained onslaught in the ninth round and finding new gear in an all-action tenth round that lasted until the final bell.
It was a class show by the southpaw genius, but despite all of Joshua’s improvements under the tutelage of new trainer Robert Garcia, he still had the unbridled flash of attack he felt he needed. I just showed it.
Midway through the fight, he landed a looping to the left of his body, driving an injured Usik into the ropes, but instead of following up he hesitated and the moment passed.
Usyk, seen on free-to-air television in Ukraine, gave him reason to cheer for his homeland in the face of Russian aggression.
“I want to thank everyone who prayed for me and thank God for helping me,” said the two-division world champion.
“I dedicate this victory to my country, my family, my team and all the servicemen who protect our country.
“Many generations will see this fight, especially the round where someone tried to beat me hard, but I endured it and turned around otherwise. Thank God.”