I had said leading up to the fight that Usyk was a serious banana peel for the Joshua vs Tyson Fury showdown but not many predicted what unfolded. Usyk overcame a twenty-one pound and four inch reach disadvantage to win a dominant unanimous decision of scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111. This author scored the contest 117-111 in a fight that was more exciting than the score would indicate. Usyk displayed a sublime set of skills at the highest level and won this fight because of his technique and superb conditioning. Throughout the entire fight there was a feeling that both men could be knocked out at anytime as they engaged in a high paced fight for heavyweights that had a lot of activity in foot movement and feints. Usyk came right out of the gates and won the first round behind two strong left hands down the middle. I predicted Usyk would win the first half of the fight and I had him up 59-55 after six rounds while other observers had it 58-56 and some even had it 57-57 though I’m not sure I agree with that. The judges all had the fight close with scores of 77-75 Usyk, 76-76 and 76-77 Joshua after eight rounds prior to Usyk dominating the last four rounds of the fight. In the twelfth round both men showed the wear and tear of the fight with Usyk bleeding from two cuts around his right eye and Joshua’s right eye swelling shut. in the eleventh round I noted that it appeared Anthony Joshua could not see the left hand coming as he was getting hit repeatedly. In the twelfth round with little time to go Uysk trapped Joshua and pounded on him along the ropes and a TKO looked imminent and then the bell rang with six seconds left on the clock.
How did this happen: In my prediction post I foresaw Usyk jumping out to a big lead with Joshua fighting very patient only for a fight to break out down the stretch. Uysk took command early with his accurate left hand and proved he could hurt Joshua despite criticism over his punching power. Joshua had a hard time pinning down the mobile Usyk who was bobbing and slipping back and forth and took the jab away from Joshua. Joshua was very limited in his approach to Usyk as he never really sold out and opened up. Whenever Joshua did score a big blow Usyk would come back with one or two of his own. Joshua took the sixth round and began to score on Usyk as it appeared he had timed him and that Usyk had slowed just enough. There was a point where it felt as though maybe Usyk was on the verge of being in danger if Joshua kept landing and then Usyk took back control. Usyk was able to keep the punch activity up and the foot movement and won on his resolve and conditioning. Joshua had some success to the body but did not get there enough.
What is next: Anthony Joshua is going to exercise his rematch clause likely in December or January. Usyk when asked about the rematch stated that we still have not seen him at his best and that he welcomes the rematch. He did say that he would like to spend time with his family whom he misses but everything looks lined up for a second go. Fury and Deontay Wilder are set to meet October 9 and it is unclear whether a full unification will be next. Dillian Whyte is waiting for his WBC shot and Fury looks willing to give him his long awaited shot.
Can Joshua win a rematch: Usyk won a dominant decision and took apart Joshua down the stretch and the knee jerk reaction would be to say this is a foregone conclusion. For me Joshua has never mastered the art of fighting tall and using his size to win fights in the way that Wladimir Klitschko did. He was never able to control Usyk from the outside or impose his size. The fight was very clean and lacked physicality. Joshua had success when he began to take some power off his punches and threw to land and scored a few hard counters when he waited on Usyk. Could Joshua get more physical, fight tall, and hit the body more? Would implementing these adjustments guarantee victory? The answer is in the execution and whether Joshua could learn from this and take a different approach. When Joshua lost to Ruiz he went through a dramatic weight loss and fought a completely different strategy in the rematch. Of course he was aided by Ruiz putting on a ton of weight and fighting lethargic. For me Usyk looked like the lifelong fighter that he is and Joshua looked like the boxer learning as he goes. I expect Usyk to do it again when they meet but you just never know.