One of the best fights of 2021 took place in London in front of 70,000 fans, and Ukraine once again has a heavyweight champion.
Oleksandr Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) went into enemy territory once again to take someone’s belt(s) away. This time it was Anthony Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs), who was largely outboxed, outpaced, and at times outmuscled by the former undisputed cruiserweight king in a dramatic championship matchup at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Usyk hurt Joshua more often than the other way around and his unanimous decision victory was well deserved. Nine years ago, Usyk won Olympic gold in London. Three years ago he defended all four of his major cruiserweight titles in Manchester by KOing Tony Bellew. Now he’s firmly established himself as a boxing legend and one of the best heavyweights in the world. Joshua was beaten fair and square but not for a lack of trying. AJ is a great boxer. Usyk is a much better one.
Usyk started off brightly landing some quality straight lefts from his southpaw stance. His speed advantage was apparent and Joshua really didn’t have much success in the opening frame. The Ukrainian held his ground in the center of the ring and did not let Joshua do his best work off of pressuring.
In Round 3 Joshua was rocked by a big left hand and put him on shaky legs. Usyk continued to befuddle him with feints and quick-fire punches upstairs to go along with effective 1-2s to the body. Joshua was barely able to get jabs off with Usyk demonstrating superior accuracy and tremendous footwork. Usyk was cut under his right eye by a Joshua right hand in the 4th round.
Joshua started to gain some momentum in Round 5 and in the 6th he cracked Usyk twice with stiff right hands and he started to assert some pressure on his fellow Olympic gold medalist. Those were by far the most powerful blows landed by Joshua and the crowd sensed a rally was occurring.
Usyk began the 2nd half of the contest with renewed aggression and towards the end of the 7th he caught Joshua twice with big straight lefts. One of them saw their feet tangle and made Joshua look more hurt than he was, but he got him again with a combination late that suggested unsteady legs. Joshua responded well in the 8th and it was his body work that was his best offense.
The last four rounds were just pure chaos. Big bombs being traded interspersed with fascinating, high-paced tactical boxing. Usyk was bloodied and Joshua’s right eye was badly swollen. Joshua kept up with Usyk’s pace but couldn’t ever really rock Usyk. Instead it was Joshua who was on the ropes and just about out on his feet and exhausted in the final round. Usyk had a barrage of shots that Joshua had to dodge and survive as the crowd was sensing their man was about to lose his titles. He did lose them and there’s no denying the outcome.
Official result: Oleksandr Usyk def. Anthony Joshua by unanimous decision (117-112, 116-112, 115-113) to win the WBO, WBA, and IBF heavyweight titles
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