Oleksandr Usyk Wins By Split Decision in Rematch Against Anthony Joshua
Despite all of Anthony Joshua’s adjustments and improvements, Oleksandr Usyk found a way to get the job done by split decision.
There were a lot of things that Joshua did better in this fight; he didn’t fall for as many feints, he was more reactive defensively, and generally sharper. His body work was better, and he started the fight more assertive. But even with all of that, Usyk managed to adjust to the adjustment, as great fighters do.
The first three rounds were largely controlled by Joshua as Usyk gathered information. He was landing cleaner and establishing his length, but frankly was not as active as I was hoping he would be. In the fourth, Usyk’s legs started to have that bounce that we are used to seeing, and he started to let his combinations go. By the sixth, Usyk started placing clean hard jabs and straight lefts to the head and body, settling into his rhythm. But in the 9th, and series of body shots from Joshua seemed to really bother Usyk in what was Joshua’s best round in either fight. I had it 5-4 Joshua going into the tenth and it was starting to feel like Joshua may have figured something out.
In round 10, Usyk came out as the more active and aggressive fighter despite taking some real punishment in the previous round and completely changed the course of the fight, convincingly winning the 11th and 12th and pulling out the decision. Once again, it was the speed, combinations, punch variation and foot speed that got it done. He can do things athletically that these other heavyweights can’t do. At this point, Usyk has proven himself to be the best heavyweight in the world, particularly in light of Tyson Fury’s retirement (or whatever he’s got going on).
I was pretty frustrated throughout the buildup to this one at how every media narrative seemed to be around Joshua; how he looks in camp, the change in trainer to Robert Garcia, how appealing a fight between him and Fury would be… What’s next if he wins? What’s next if he loses? Will he live up to Lennox Lewis? Blah blah blah. Nobody seemed as interested in the generational talent standing across from him, fit and ready despite his country Ukraine being war torn and he himself fighting in that war. The reality is, there were two great fighters in there tonight with their own legacies, and I believe Usyk’s legacy will be that not of a celebrity but of an all time great.
For me, Joshua has never gotten enough credit for his grit and balls and too much credit for his boxing skill. He has been held to a standard of either being the best of all time or a bum, of which he is neither. What he is is a really good fighter with exceptional power who is not afraid to mix with the best in the world, which not enough fighters do right now. He’s fought more contenders than ANY of his contemporaries at the elite level, and now in both of his losses he’s taken immediate rematches and made improvements.
His strange antics after fight in my view were due to being overly emotional and a failure to recognize that the moment was no longer about him, something he is not used to. He is used to being the star of the show and will now have to rebuild, something I think he can definitely do after this performance. I don’t see Joshua as losing anything from this one.
As for Usyk, he made it clear that unless he is fighting Tyson Fury, he won’t be fighting. Some of that may be exaggeration, but I think it speaks to his desire to become the undisputed champion, and above that, the best of his era, no questions asked. I love the matchup, I just don’t know or understand where Fury is at currently. Even if he is just addicted to media attention, I don’t understand the tactic… why not start hyping this fight now?
If Usyk cannot get Fury, maybe the winner of Joe Joyce and Joseph Parker, or Luis Ortiz and Andy Ruiz will get him next. But that doesn’t seem like something Usyk would be particularly interested in. At 35, I would imagine that Usyk is only interested in big fights, which he has earned. Regardless of what he does next, maybe Oleksandr Usyk will finally get the appreciation he deserves.
On the undercard, Filip Hrgovich barely got a decision over the hard punching Zhilei Zhang in a heavyweight banger. Hrgovich went down in round one and seemed to struggle to keep his legs under him throughout the fight. He even looked to be having trouble maintaining focus, actually walking away from Zhang on multiple occasions. It had the making of a meltdown. But Hrgovich showed grit and class, upping his activity over the second half and just edging the heavy punching Zhang. This one might be worth running back.
Also of note, Callum Smith got a brutal knockout over Mathieu Bauderlique, making his the WBC mandatory, and Badou Jack decisions Richard Rivera in a close one at cruiserweight.
UNRELATED TO BOXING; let’s not normalize having fights in Saudi Arabia before it’s too late.