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Oleksandr Usyk Beats Anthony Joshua via Decision to Retain Heavyweight Titles

Nate Loop@@Nate_LoopFeatured Columnist IVAugust 20, 2022

Ayman Yaqoob/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Oleksandr Usyk (20-0, 13 KOs) put together another excellent performance in his blockbuster rematch against Anthony Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs), showing off great strength, accuracy and stamina to score a split-decision win and retain his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles on Saturday night in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The judges scored the bout 116-112, 115-113, 113-115 in favor of Usyk.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Usyk wins again 🥊<br><br>Oleksandr Usyk defeats Anthony Joshua via split decision to retain his WBA, IBF, IBO &amp; WBO Heavyweight belts <a href="https://t.co/7dbNic2hPC">pic.twitter.com/7dbNic2hPC</a>


Usyk, 35, faced a tougher test this time around from Joshua, whom he defeated by unanimous decision 11 months ago in London to become world heavyweight champion. The Ukrainian fended off some early challenges and a powerful late surge. He was at his best in the middle rounds and from the 10th round on, using his speed and movement to outclass his opponent.

"I devote this victory to my country, my family, my team and to the military defending the country," he said after the win, per The Athletic's Greg Rosenstein. "This is already history. Many generations are going to watch this fight, especially the round when someone tried to beat me hard. But I turned it in a different way."

After becoming the undisputed champion at cruiserweight, Usyk moved up to the heavyweight ranks in 2019. He's 4-0 now in the division and has a chance to become an undisputed champion for a second time if he can put together a fight with WBC titleholder Tyson Fury.

Michael Benson @MichaelBensonn

Oleksandr Usyk: "I'm sure that Tyson Fury is not retired. I'm convinced he wants to fight me, I wanna fight him. If I'm not fighting Tyson Fury, I'm not fighting at all."

Joshua, who called this fight a "must-win" in the buildup, didn't appear to take the loss well. He confronted Usyk before taking the microphone and giving an emotional, long-winded speech.

Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani

This is kinda wild. AJ now putting over Usyk. It’s like he’s hosting a post presser. Dropping f bombs. Fascinating.

Working with trainer Robert Garcia for the first time, the 32-year-old Joshua made some savvy adjustments in the rematch. He was better at establishing the jab and making use of his towering frame. The early rounds saw him land some nice body shots, something that he wasn't able to do until the middle rounds of the first meeting.

Terence Crawford @terencecrawford

AJ looking real good

Usyk was still having his moments, but he had to work harder for them this time around. He looked smooth and confident in his approach, firing off the jab and sneaking in some strong left-handed counter shots. He built on the same techniques that worked in the first meeting, using feints to set up punches from awkward angles and moving around the ring on his quick feet.

Tony Bellew @TonyBellew

2-2 for me after 4! AJ I expect to start really upping the pace! Usyk’s feet are the best in all of boxing! He glides effortlessly! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Usykvsjoshua2?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Usykvsjoshua2</a>

The fifth and sixth rounds saw Usyk get into a rhythm, and Joshua's offense faltered a bit. Joshua has admitted that southpaws like Usyk give him trouble, and again he struggled to fend off left-handed body shots. Usyk even led with the left on a few occasions, looking to surprise the former two-time champion.

Teddy Atlas @TeddyAtlasReal

I know my English fans won’t like it or agree but 5-1, Usyk. Boxer vs. stalker. Boxer ahead. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UsykJoshua2?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UsykJoshua2</a>

Just when it looked like Usyk might take complete control of the match, Joshua dug deep and found a way to get back into the fight. He started to let his hands go more in the eighth round, forcing Usyk to be more careful in his own approach and even backing him up on a few occasions.

DAZN Boxing @DAZNBoxing

AJ PILES ON THE PRESSURE 😲<br><br>HUGE ONSLAUGHT <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UsykJoshua2?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UsykJoshua2</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RageOnTheRedSea?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RageOnTheRedSea</a> <a href="https://t.co/6E12iObyXh">pic.twitter.com/6E12iObyXh</a>

That work in the eighth set up a great ninth frame for Joshua, as the body work appeared to hurt Usyk and took the fight to the ropes. He wasn't able to score a knockdown like he had so many times in his career, but it was a thrilling resurgence.

Incredibly, Usyk gathered himself and put on his own clinic in the 10th round, staggering Joshua and increasing the pressure. He looked as if the previous round hadn't happened, and it was truly a championship moment from one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.

DAZN Boxing @DAZNBoxing

USYK ABSOLUTELY LAYS IT ON ANTHONY JOSHUA 🤯<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UsykJoshua2?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UsykJoshua2</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RageOnTheRedSea?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RageOnTheRedSea</a> <a href="https://t.co/ol0s5oeY6G">pic.twitter.com/ol0s5oeY6G</a>

After spending time with local defense forces this year following Russia's military invasion of Ukraine, Usyk put himself through a grueling training camp to prepare for Joshua. All the training clearly paid off, as it was Usyk's lungs and legs that carried him through the last rounds, even as Joshua went hunting for a knockout blow.

Adam McKola @AdamMcKola

Better from AJ but just not enough and couldn't capitalise on his good moments. Usyk on another level.

The boxing world will be looking to see what Fury has to say in the aftermath of this fight. Fury has hinted at retirement, but the opportunity to unify the four major titles could be too good to pass up.

As for Joshua, his best opportunity may be a potentially lucrative match against former world champion Deontay Wilder. It would be a fascinating contest, but Joshua may also consider retirement after having gone through several punishing battles and losing three of his last five matches.

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