Just months on from serving on Ukraine’s frontline defence against Russian invasion, Oleksandr Usyk dedicated another victory over Anthony Joshua to his country.
The reigning unified world heavyweight champion defended his WBA, WBO and IBF titles with another masterful display in Saudi Arabia, outclassing ‘AJ’ over 12 rounds to take a deserved decision success.
Despite the judges’ verdict being a strange split decision, with one official scoring the fight in favour of Joshua, it was Usyk who was the clearcut victor.
After a successful first defence of his crowns, as well as adding the coveted Ring Magazine belt to his collection, only Tyson Fury’s WBC title remains for him to claim on the path towards becoming a two-division undisputed champion.
A showdown with Fury is the only fight Usyk wants next following another classy performance to move to 20-0 and further add to his ever-growing legacy. Here’s how the Ukrainian earned a second successive win over Joshua.
How The Fight Was Won
The defending heavyweight champion picked up where he left off from his first victory when the opening bell sounded in Jeddah, taking control against a visibly more focused Joshua.
In that initial success last September, Usyk outclassed and outmanoeuvred the towering presence of Joshua. Despite the former champion improving on his own performance this time around, Usyk once again showcased his superiority as the master boxer across 12 rounds.
The Ukrainian continued with his consistent feints and level changes, while utilising his pawing jab and lead hand domination, to keep ‘AJ’ constantly on alert and hesitant to let his shots go.
Usyk’s use of quick, blinding punches to the high guard have become an effective trait of his throughout his prestigious career to date, as he regularly tapped Joshua’s gloves with throwaway shots to set up his more damaging attacks.
The use of combinations were also more eye-catching to ringside judges in contrast to Joshua’s lower shot output and reliance on single power punches.
Mixing his attack up and down, Usyk took aim at Joshua’s body from the early rounds. This proved decisive in the later stages of a tough fight, despite Usyk taking a body onslaught of his own late on.
The champion was able to battle back from a gruelling ninth round, in which Joshua looked on the verge of a shock stoppage, to enjoy his own best round in the 10th. In order to survive that worrying ninth and get a much-needed break, Usyk cleverly tied the bigger man up on the inside to smother the attempts at combinations.
Masterful Rematch Performance
Throughout the rematch, Usyk’s immense footwork was on show as he circled mainly to his right from his southpaw stance, in order to limit the potential threat of Joshua’s big right hand.
This saw ‘AJ’ frustratingly have to chase the smaller man down, as Usyk used his constant lateral movement to stay off the ropes and take centre ring as frequently as possible - refusing to be pinned down.
Usyk was able to gain lead foot control in the second meeting again, keeping his right foot to the outside of Joshua’s lead left and covering up when he rolled away from any incoming shots.
Moving safely around the ring and feinting to keep Joshua on edge, Usyk kept his head off the punching line when throwing shots before pivoting away from danger. As well as the elite ring skills Usyk shown once again, his physical and mental toughness were on display, particularly during and after the ninth round.
Usyk’s latest victory was dedicated to his home nation of Ukraine and his performance is one that proudly mirrored the defiant stance taken by his people back home. Despite the ongoing matters more important than boxing, Usyk still overcame the emotions to maintain his reign as a worthy heavyweight world champion.
Header image: Matchroom Boxing