Oleksandr Usyk defeats Anthony Joshua again following excellent fight
It was repeat rather than redemption as Oleksandr Usyk defended his world heavyweight titles with a classy 12-round decision over Anthony Joshua.
Usyk earned the decision despite the horrible scorecard of Glenn Feldman who scored it 115-113 for Joshua but he was over-ruled by cards of 115-113 and a much more understandable 116-112. It was an excellent match. Joshua brought more focus, discipline and confidence to the rematch but it was not enough.
The action in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was brisk in the opening. Joshua, looking focused and steely-eyed, had his moments but Usyk landed more, including a telling straight left that jarred Joshua’s head back near the end of the round.
Joshua scored to the body in both of the first two rounds. He targeted the Ukrainian’s torso with the long right downstairs but he also fired in a left hook into the body and he shovelled a right uppercut in, too. Usyk was constantly mobile, loosely moving around the ring and popping out his right hand. Joshua was sharp, but Usyk was busier.
It was fascinatingly poised after three. Both Angel Fernandez and Robert Garcia were offering advice in Joshua’s corner. Garcia told him he was winning every round and advised him to triple the jab and fire the right hook.
Usyk was working frenetically; Joshua was looking to time him with the right hand. The action intensified in the fourth. Usyk’s left scored several times but Joshua stood firm and shot back with his right, and a couple of punches landed firmly on Usyk without discouraging him.
In the fifth, Joshua landed downstairs and Usyk indicated it was too low. He took a moment to recover and when the action resumed AJ targeted the body again. The Londoner looked a different proposition this time. His concentration was not wavering. He was more compact and composed and sharper with his shots. Joshua’s defence was tighter, too.
It was a mentally taxing affair. Neither could switch off for a moment. Joshua’s boot slipped on the canvas in the seventh but he landed a right shortly afterwards. Usyk scored with several shots although he was not putting power in his punches, either banking on the scorecards or the cumulative effect of what he was landing.
The canvas had to be towelled down as Joshua lost his footing again in Round Eight, but his bodywork in the round was stellar until near the end of the session when he fell short with several attempts and he was picked off for his troubles.
The ninth, however, was big for Joshua. He bulled Usyk into an almost constant retreat, outmuscled the champion, thumped the body and forced the champion to hang on through some rocky moments.
But somehow Usyk started the 10th from where Joshua left off in the previous round. Usyk clipped Joshua with both hands, moved off and did it again. Then Joshua landed a huge right that threatened to turn the fight but Usyk rode out the storm and finished the round in the ascendancy.
Joshua didn’t quit on his body attack in the 11th. He thumped Usyk’s midsection with a hurtful right hand and in the 12th he caught the champion with a left hook and another right but Usyk pinged him back with his own ripostes. Usyk was slippery defensively and dangerous offensively in the last but Joshua was in it to win until the clock ran out but Usyk had won and won well, despite Feldman’s efforts.
Usyk was tremendous and Joshua was much better than he had been at Tottenham almost a year ago. AJ was far from outclassed and he has plenty left to offer. Joshua let off steam with a bizarre post-fight tirade, while Usyk said he wanted to fight Tyson Fury and that if the Fury bout could not be made, then he might not box again.