Last September, Oleksandr Usyk removed all doubt that he was a serious heavyweight when he produced a dominant display to dethrone Anthony Joshua and win three heavyweight titles. The question coming into Saturday's rematch was could Usyk have a repeat performance, or would Joshua be able to make the necessary adjustments and become a three-time heavyweight champion?
Joshua made some of the necessary changes, but when it counted, Usyk exemplified his exceptional boxing skills in the championship rounds to beat the Englishman by split decision (113-115, 116-112, 115-113) to retain the IBF, WBA (super), and WBO heavyweight titles and capture the Ring title in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. DAZN had the fight scored 115-113 for Usyk.
It was a tactical affair through the opening four rounds with neither guy able to gain a clear cut advantage. Starting in the fifth round, Usyk and Joshua started to let their hands go with Joshua putting an emphasis on the body while Usyk focused upstairs.
Joshua looked to be on the verge of closing the show in the ninth round. The former two-time, three-belt heavyweight champion had Usyk on the ropes and nearly out on his feet with one power shot upstairs after another. The belts seemed to be on the verge of heading back to the United Kingdom.
Usyk survived the onslaught and made it out of the round. He came out with a vengeance in the last three rounds of the fight. He used his slick techniques to confuse Joshua and almost send him to the canvas in the tenth round. With the fight hanging in the balance in the 12th and final round, Usyk didn't put the foot on the gas pedal. Instead, he went right at Joshua with power, combinations, and volume punches. His work in the last three rounds helped him to hold onto the gold and record a successful first title defense.
According to CompuBox, in the last three rounds, Usyk threw 232 punches compared to 149 for Joshua and outlanded him 79-29.
What's next for Usyk? With WBC champion Tyson Fury once again announcing his retirement last week, it appears that is unknown. Usyk isn't buying what Fury is trying to sell everyone. Usyk made it clear that if Fury is retired, he is sitting on the sidelines.
"I'm sure that Tyson Fury is not retired," Usyk said in his post-fight interview. "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."
Here is what happened at Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua 2.
Usyk comes right out with a flurry to begin the final round. Joshua comes back with a left and a right to the body. Usyk with a right to the body. Joshua is exhausted. Usyk comes back with another combination. Joshua is trying with everything he can, but Usyk fires a straight left. A great way to close the show for Usyk, as he should get the nod here. (10-9 Usyk, 115-113 Usyk)
Two straight lefts for Usyk. A right cracks Joshua. Two jabs from Usyk. Pawing right from Joshua. A hard body shot from Joshua. A hard body shot moves Usyk back. Left hand from Usyk and a combination from Joshua. Two hard body shots by Joshua. A combination from Usyk. Down to the final round. (10-9 Usyk, 105-104 Usyk)
A straight left from Usyk and then a check hook. A left from Usyk. No quit in the champion. A combination from Usyk. A right rocks Usyk. Left hook from Joshua. A right from Usyk. An uppercut and a right from Usyk. A left moves Joshua back. A right hook from Usyk. Usyk lands a flurry that stuns Joshua. What a fight. (10-9 Usyk, 95-95)
Hard right to the body from Joshua. An exchange of body shots. An uppercut to the body from Joshua. Two jabs by Joshua. Left to the body from Joshua. A combination of hooks makes Usyk grab. A left hook from Joshua. Joshua with a flurry, and Usyk is on the ropes. A right uppercut from Joshua. Two hooks from Joshua. Hard body shot from Joshua as he smiles at Usykl as the bell sounds. (10-9 Joshua, 86-85 Joshua)
Blistering jab by Usyk. Good body shot from Joshua. And another one. A combination from Usyk. Right uppercut and a three-punch combination from Joshua makes Usyk wince in pain. A combination from Usyk, but Joshua lands a left hook. Body shot from Usyk and a combination from Joshua to end the round. Best round of the fight so far. (10-9 Joshua, 76-76)
A right to begin the seventh for Usyk. A right from Joshua but fires a combination to the body and a straight left that snaps Joshua's head back. Left to the body for Usyk. Joshua is falling into the same traps as the first fight. Needs to make an adjustment. (10-9 Usyk, 67-66 Usyk)
Right cross to begin the sixth for Usyk. Left hook to the body for Joshua. Right hook for Usyk. Right to the body. Crisp jab for Joshua. Jab and straight right by Joshua. Combination by Usyk. Right hook by Usyk. Right to the body by Joshua. The complexion of the fight keeps changing as the seconds tick by. (10-9 Joshua, 57-57)
Joshua pops right up and fires a left jab. Right hand for Joshua. Left hand connects for Usyk. Straight left sends Usyk to the ropes. Right lands for Usyk, and Joshua lands one of his own. Right to the body by Joshua. Straight left for Usyk. Right hook for Joshua. (10-9 Usyk, 48-47 Usyk)
Not much in the first 45 seconds. Exchange of jabs. A right to the body from Joshua. A left from Usyk and then another one around the guard. A good right hook from Usyk. A right hook for Joshua. Laser left down the middle from Usyk at the horn. (10-9 Usyk, 38-38)
A straight left sends Usyk back to begin the third. A solid right hand by Joshua. Overhand right from Joshua after getting sliding away from an Usyk jab attempt. Three-punch combination to the body. A one-two for Usyk. Straight left from Usyk. Right hook moves Usyk back, and a left connects as the bell sounds. (10-9 Joshua, 29-28 Joshua)
Series of jabs from Joshua and a right to the body. Jab to the body for Joshua. A left hook and an overhand right for Joshua. Straight left for Usyk. Another right to the body for Joshua. Right hand down the middle for Joshua. A right to the body from Joshua. A much different Joshua thus far. (10-9 Joshua, 19-19)
Neither guy is doing much in the opening minute. Jab gets through for Usyk. Body shot for Joshua. Couple of jabs get through for Usyk, and Joshua follows up with a right through the guard of Usyk. An uppercut to the body for Joshua. Close round. (10-9 Usyk)
What a start for Zhang! After getting dominated for the bulk of the round, a looping right behind the ear puts Hrgovic on the deck. Once Hrgovic made it back to his feet, Zhang connected on a hard left which staggered Hrgovic. What a development as Zhang now has the momentum.