Dominant Usyk ends Joshua’s second reign as heavyweight champion | Sports News
By STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) – Slumped, helpless on the ropes, Anthony Joshua greeted the final bell – and what he knew was the end of his second reign as world heavyweight champion – with a wry smile.
Oleksandr Usyk knew it too, falling to his knees and gazing up to the sky.
In just his third fight since moving from the cruiserweight division, Usyk delivered a moving clinic and quick punches to clinch a unanimous victory over Joshua in front of a stunned 66,267 fans inside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London Saturday.
Usyk became the third man, after Evander Holyfield and David Haye, to win world titles in cruiserweight and then heavyweight. Six years after the end of Wladimir Klitschko’s long heavyweight reign, Ukraine has yet another champion in the marquee division of boxing.
“The fight went exactly as I expected,” Usyk said through a translator. “There were a few moments where Anthony pushed me hard but nothing special.”
After the judges scored the bout 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113 in favor of Usyk, 34, Joshua – sporting a closed right eye – walked over to Usyk’s corner and congratulated the Ukrainian team.
Dominated by a smaller, lighter and much faster opponent, Joshua lost his WBA, WBO and IBF titles for the second time – more than two years after losing to Andy Ruiz Jr. in New York which he immediately lost. avenged in Saudi Arabia.
Joshua will have the chance to do the same – there’s a rematch clause in the deal with Usyk – in an effort to keep his ultimate goal alive: to become an undisputed champion. The British public, who have followed Joshua’s journey from Olympic champion to world champion, hoped for an all-British fight against WBC champion Tyson Fury to unify the four belts.
It sounds whimsical now, however. Usyk was comfortably the most assertive fighter, his reflexes pulling gasps from the pro-Joshua crowd and his lightning-quick punch on his left hand connecting repeatedly.
Joshua just didn’t see the punches coming, as in the third round when his head was tipped back by a straight left before the Briton wobbled after a left hook low to the jaw.
As in the ninth, when another part of Usyk caught up with Joshua, who nodded at the challenger as the bell rang.
And especially in a sensational final round when the disparity between fighters was at its height as Usyk unleashed a flurry of punches – from his left and right – that saw Joshua reel back on the ropes. Indeed, he was saved by the bell.
Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn said Joshua couldn’t see with his right eye from the ninth round.
“I had no goal of eliminating him because my corner pushed me not to do it,” Usyk said. “At first I hit him and tried to knock him out but my trainer said, ‘Stop and do your job.'”
Usyk transitioned to heavyweight in 2019 after unifying all cruiserweight belts, and now has 19 consecutive wins as a professional.
His energy levels were remarkable, as was shown in the final round, and then after the news was announced, Usyk – an eccentric – entertained the crowd with an acrobatic dance inside the ring.
Joshua fell to the second loss of his 25-fight professional career, this time against a man who followed him – just a day later – as Olympic champion at the London Games in 2012. His career is again at crossroads.
“Stay positive even if the world is crumbling in front of you! Joshua said in a tweet. “London, I love you and thank you every time.”
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