I know I am late to the dance on this but I decided to watch this fight twice prior to writing about it. By the time anyone sees this the story would have came and passed but there were a lot of takes regarding this fight. On boxing forums and podcasts and comment sections I found views that ran in opposition to what I saw. I wanted to come here and express what I saw the first time and what I saw the second time.
Score: 116-112 Usyk
I scored the initial encounter between them 117 to 111 for Usyk and felt that this rematch saw many improvements on the part of Joshua. I know that I only gave him one more round than the first fight but he did much better. Anthony Joshua showed defensive improvements as he was not so befuddled by the movement and feinting of the smaller and quicker Usyk. He was able to block and pick off many punches with his gloves and was able to reduce the pace that Usyk fought at. Much like their first encounter he boxed with the boxer and didn’t quite impose his advantages and size but did impose himself a little more than he did the first fight. I had the fight even after the first four rounds scoring rounds two and three to Joshua before Usyk took over the fight much like he did in the previous fight. Joshua had a big offensive surge in the ninth round and went for broke scoring to the body and to the head with hooks and uppercuts. Usyk had to clinch and it was the best round that Joshua had in their 24 rounds fought together. Then in the 10th Usyk took back control and had a big round where he rocked Joshua and we took the momentum of the fight. I did score the 12th round for Anthony Joshua he came out aggressively throwing his right hand down the middle and scored with a couple of heavy blows. This did turn out to be controversial as Glenn Feldman scored the 12th round for Anthony Joshua and the fight 115 to 113 for Joshua. In fact the judges had it closer with Feldman scoring it for Joshua and Steven Gray scoring it 115 to 113 for Usyk which is a much closer margin than most viewers saw. Some did accuse this fight of being boring but watching it live there was a lot of tension. It felt like a knockout could happen at any moment and that’s usually the beauty of heavyweight boxing, especially when one of the fighters carries a big punch that if there is activity and there is counter-punching it could feel like a knockout is imminent making the anticipation the dramatic part of the fight. I was going to post about this fight a lot sooner but of course work got in the way as it always does but some Forum posting from a sort of contrarian and controversial poster got me thinking about the fight. Their assessment saw Joshua winning more rounds than most had credited to him and seemed to be in defense of the Feldman and Gray scorecards that many had an issue with. I decided to review the fight and make sure that I hadn’t missed something between watching with expectations and a preconceived notion plus the alcohol.
Watching this fight again gave gave me a new perspective on the fight. Not so much that anything changed significantly in the scoring of the fight but that the action in the middle rounds was a lot closer than some are giving it credit for. I also feel that a lot of Observers and fans are being unfairly harsh on Joshua and writing him off. Joshua certainly made improvements off of the first fight and made it a lot more difficult for Usyk this time around. He showed a commitment to the body with a tighter defense and a more measured offensive approach. Usyk offensively was a little less effective he was not as busy his punches were not as accurate but he did snap Joshua’s head back plenty of times though he never got his knees to buckle or Wilt the way he did in the first fight. There were some pretty close rounds in this fight particularly the first round the third round and the 8th round are apparent swing rounds and the judges seem to differ in their opinion on those rounds. I watched the first round and the third round again in my second viewing based on not feeling good about my scoring and differences with Chris Mannix the TV scorer. I also found rounds five, six, seven, and eight to be very competitive. I have a tendency to score rounds for the harder puncher and Joshua is definitely the bigger stronger man with a more concussive punch but Usyk would tend to score more punches and snap Joshua’s head back more often particularly with the right jab. Anytime that Joshua seemed to be building something Usyk would respond with two to three punches of his own and oftentimes on replay Joshua’s combinations were less effective than they seemed live. Now I’m going to write something somewhat controversial and say that I can sort of understand how Feldman and Gray had this fight close. I found myself watching those middle rounds thinking that Joshua was doing pretty well but Usyk would do just enough to separate himself with a jab here and a flurry there. However in my view Usyk definitely won those middle rounds but round 8 could swing it Joshua’s way but that would still leave the fight 116 to 112 on my card or 115 to 113 if I was to flip the first round as well. There still aren’t enough rounds in my estimation to give the fight to Anthony Joshua. Also in my review of this fight I did notice that it was a lot less exciting the second time around. Much like Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury’s third fight it did not have great rewatch value. The anticipation of The Knockout was gone and the diminished action and slower pace of the fight were not as interesting in a second go around. In the Fury and Wilder final fight all the dramatics from the knockdowns and short surges didn’t have that surprise factor in the sloppiness and ugliness of the clinching and leaning just made that fight a lot less interesting on a rewatch.
I think this fight may have burst my bubble a little bit on Usyk. After the first fight I thought that he would beat Tyson Fury. I thought Fury looked fat and slower and easier to hit in the third Wilder fight and showed some of the same things against Dillian Whyte though that was a mismatch. Usyk regressed a little bit in this fight he wasn’t as fast he wasn’t as active he wasn’t as accurate and the boxing of Joshua and the infighting of Joshua was more effective. I consider Tyson Fury to be better than Joshua in most categories he’s a better boxer a better Jabber he has faster feet he has better defense he has better combinations he’s a better counter puncher he fights better inside he has a better gas tank he is bigger and taller and has a longer reach. I think if they are to meet in their next fight I feel that Fury would be the favorite in that matchup though it is still a terrific fight and by no means of foregone conclusion.
Anthony Joshua gets a little bit more respect for me for his performance in the rematch. I’ve never been a particularly big fan of his and have rooted against him in plenty of fights and have picked against other fights. He did better in this fight despite my scorecard not changing. The rounds were much more competitive he certainly made adjustments and he had moments. It just felt that he did not do enough again and some are questioning his intelligence in the ring others are questioning his heart I just think Usyk’s a better fighter. I’ve seen a lot of criticism in relation to his approach in the 10th round and that he came out in the 9th very aggressively and won the round and had his best round in all the rounds combined and then came out tepid in the 10th. I disagree with that statement because Joshua did engage to start the 10th round and was on the front foot but was getting countered he got hit by a big left and a big right hook that clearly hurt him and took the momentum away from him and I think it’s a disservice to Usyk and his ability to write off the 10th round as a lapse or poor strategy from Joshua then giving no credit to Usyk as a counter-puncher. I am not going to touch the post fight rant you can look it up on YouTube or fast forward to the end of the fight on DAZN it didn’t do him any favors but I still think he’s a household name in the UK he’s still a marketable fighter if he fought Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder or any of the other up-and-coming heavy weights it’s still a massive fight and he’s still capable of beating top guys though I would have him as the underdog against an assortment of those Fighters.