Were there any doubt that Oleksandr Usyk were truly the better man when he defeated Anthony Joshua in their first meeting, the Ukrainian erased them on Saturday in Saudi Arabia. Usyk won the rematch to remain WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight champion inside the Jeddah Superdome after 12 hard-fought rounds by split decision in a fight where there was truly no doubt he deserved to be named the victor.
Joshua showed that he had made some real adjustments since their September 2021 clash, fighting in a lower stance and not falling into Usyk’s traps in the opening rounds. That made it difficult for Usyk to truly get rolling early as he maintained his constant lateral movement, but without the same offensive openings presenting themselves as they had in the first meeting.
Usyk began to switch up his gameplan beginning in Round 4 as he began to figure out the approach Joshua was taking. Rather than allow Joshua to lead the fight and apply pressure, Usyk began to circle more and fire off combinations with the intention to touch Joshua more than hurt him with any one shot. In response to Usyk’s adjustment, Joshua began to fall into the same traps as the first meeting, chasing Usyk and missing wildly at times.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Usyk, however, as Joshua made a big adjustment of his own, focusing his offense on Usyk’s body. A steady diet of hooks and uppercuts to the torso slowed Usyk’s movement and opened up the head.
This led to Joshua’s biggest moment in the fight – and the most likely chance for him to have scored a stoppage. In Round 9, Joshua battered Usyk around the ring, seemingly stunning the champion multiple times throughout the frame.
Usyk stayed on his feet, however, and showed true championship qualities in the final three rounds of the fight. Beginning in Round 10, Usyk upped his output considerably, tagging Joshua with heavy shots multiple times. Joshua’s lower stance disappeared and he began to fight with very straight, slow legs as Usyk took over and ensured a well-deserved victory.
The official scorecards after the fight read 115-113 and 116-112 for Usyk with one 115-113 card inexplicably turned in for Joshua.
After retaining three of the four recognized world heavyweight championships, Usyk was asked the obvious question of whether he intended to look to become the undisputed champion by going after the WBC belt currently held by Tyson Fury. Fury has repeatedly claimed he has retired from boxing, though many believe he could be coaxed back to the ring with the promise of an undisputed title fight.
“I’m sure that Tyson Fury is not retired yet,” Usyk said during his post-fight interview. “I’m convinced that Tyson wants to fight me and I want to fight him. If I’m not fighting him, I’m not fighting at all. Only God knows whether I will or not.”
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Usyk vs. Joshua 2 fight card, results
- Oleksandr Usyk (c) def. Anthony Joshua via split decision (115-113, 113-115, 116-112)
- Filip Hrgovic def. Zhilei Zhang via unanimous decision (115-112, 115-112, 114-113)
- Callum Smith def. Mathieu Bauderlique via fourth-round knockout
- Badou Jack def. Richard Rivera via split decision (96-94, 94-96, 96-94)
Usyk vs. Joshua 2 scorecard