The highly anticipated ‘Rage on the Red Sea’ heavyweight rematch between British-Nigerian Anthony Joshua versus Oleksandr Usyk, ended early on Sunday morning with Usyk retaining his IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO titles on split decision.
Former champion Joshua, who lost the four titles to the Ukrainian last September, looked extremely trim and relaxed at the packed King Abdullah Sports Arena in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia but failed to reclaim his lost belts.
Were there any doubts Usyk were truly the better man when he defeated Joshua in their first meeting, the Ukrainian erased them on Saturday in Saudi Arabia.
But Usyk won the rematch inside the Jeddah Superdome.
After 12 hard-fought rounds, Usyk had his hand raised after taking a split decision in a fight where there was truly no doubt he deserved to be named the victor.
There were scary moments at times for Usyk, who again used slick boxing to largely befuddle Joshua throughout the bout. Joshua made a mid-fight adjustment to focus on Usyk’s body, which eventually allowed him to fire upstairs, seeming to badly hurt Usyk in the ninth round. Usyk showed true championship qualities as he weathered the storm before coming back in Round 10 to dominate the final three rounds of the fight and cement his 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.
Joshua praised Usyk after the defeat, saying, “This guy here is a phenomenal talent, we’re going to cheer for him three times.”
He added, “If you knew my story you would understand the passion. I ain’t no amateur boxer from five-years-old, that was an elite prospect from youth.
“I was going to jail, I got bail and I started training myself; I wanted to be able to fight.
“I’m stealing this Usyk I’m sorry, but it’s because of the passion we put into this. This guy to beat me tonight, maybe I could have done better, but it shows the level of hard work I put in so please give him a round of applause as our heavyweight champion of the world.’
“I’m not a 12 round fighter, look at me, I’m a new breed of heavyweights, Mike Tyson, Sonny Liston, Jack Dempsey, ‘you don’t throw combinations like Rocky Marciano’, I’m 18 stone, I’m heavy, it’s hard work.”