There should be no more questions about the effectiveness of Oleksandr Usyk as a heavyweight, or how legitimate his campaign in the games glamour division is. All of those were answered emphatically on Saturday as Usky scored a clear cut unanimous decision over Anthony Joshua, to capture the WBA, IBF and WBO titles.
This victory was so decisive that any attempts at home cooking at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London would save Joshua, who wasn't knocked out like he was against Andy Ruiz in 2019, but was left reeling down the stretch by the Ukrainian southpaw.
After 12 compelling rounds Usyk was ruled the winner on all three cards by the scores of: 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113.
Photo Credit: Matchroom Sports/Mark Robinson
Conventional wisdom said Joshua would come out victorious because he was the naturally bigger fighter. Usyk won because he was the more natural one.
While giving up a few inches in height and nearly 20 pounds in weight, it was Usyk who surprisingly controlled the center of the ring from the very beginning of the bout. Instead of boxing and utilizing the perimeter of the ring, he stood his ground, which seemed to unnerve Joshua.
Early on, not only did Usyk use his quicker hands and superior fluidity to beat 'AJ' to the punch, but he buzzed him with a few hard left crosses. While not a huge puncher, Usyk is certainly a solid one. His shots may not knock over modern day heavyweights, they still have enough on them to sting them and grab their attention.
Usyk, wasn't just out-boxing Joshua, he out-punched him in spots.
And this should be noted, while he does not possess prototype size for a modern day heavyweight, at 6'3 and 221 pounds (which is what he weighed for this past weekends bout) he isn't 'small' by any stretch. Usyk's physical dimensions are in line with past big men who ruled the heavyweight class.
Joshua did have some moments in the middle rounds, as he landed a few body shots and right hands that certainly got the attention of Usky, who showed that he was every bit as tough as he was talented on this night. Because while he boxed effectively, there was still a price to pay for facing a man who was that much bigger and had scored 22 stoppages in his 24 victories.
But despite his advantages height, size and reach, Joshua never truly established his physical dominance. He seemed hesitant to establish a long, hard jab from the outside. And he's never been much of an in-fighter, which left him in a precarious position from the mid-range where he was befuddled by the movement and quick hands of Usyk.
It has to be pointed out, that while Joshua looked a bit tentative and unsure of himself in there, throughout the night Usyk had an unwavering poise and calm about him. While many point to Joshua being a tad gun-shy after his knockout loss to Ruiz, you could argue that his cloak of invincibility was really stripped from him after his memorable battle against Wladimir Klitschko in 2017. From that point on he's been a much more cautious figure inside that ring.
Going into the late rounds, while there was the possibility that this fight was close on the cards(after all, Joshua was the heavy A-side, here), you got the sense that he needed that big, dramatic moment to swing the momentum. But instead, the late rounds were controlled by Usyk, who just steadily kept chopping away at the big redwood in front of him. In the 12th round he put an exclamation mark on what was a career-defining effort.
While there is now a debate as to who is the games best big man (as some will say its clearly the winner of the third installment between WBC titlist, Tyson Fury, and Deontay Wilder) there's no denying this: Usyk is the most accomplished off this trio.
After unifying a deep and talented cruiserweight division on his way to winning the World Boxing Super Series tournament, he then capped off his run here by stopping Tony Bellew in 2018. Then, after two rather uninspiring efforts to begin his heavyweight campaign, he scored one of the biggest victories in boxing this past weekend.
Photo Credit: Matchroom Sports/Mark Robinson
What's really impressive about his record isn't just that he's undefeated (18-0, 13 KOs) and faced a litany of world champions, but it's the fact that he's become boxing ultimate road warrior. In an era when many boxers are reluctant to fight outside their own zip code, Usyk has gone on a world tour worthy of 'the Rolling Stones' after beginning his career in his native Ukraine.
Starting with his first title bout against Krzysztof Glowacki in 2016, he has since faced Marco Huck in Germany, Mairis Briedis in Latvia, Murat Gassiev in Russia, and now recently, Bellew, Dereck Chisora and now Joshua in the UK.
Alexander the Great didn't conquer this many territories so quickly.
And he may not be finished.
In a day where many fighters are more than willing to let fights marinate, and wait their turn, or let the business dictate their careers, Usyk acts like a fighter, first and foremost. After consolidating all the belts as a cruiserweight, he and his team almost immediately petitioned for the WBO to make them Joshua's mandatory. While Fury and Wilder were playing legal footsies over their rematch clause, all Usyk wanted was a shot at Joshua.
What took place this past weekend should not be an indictment on Joshua, who's popularity has driven the boxing business in Britain. He will still be a major player within the heavyweight division in the years to come.
But unfortunately he was forced to fight somebody who just happens to be a generational talent.
So one thing you don't see on the boxing schedule are any fight cards from Golden Boy Promotions. But that could be changing soon with a couple of notable fights that could soon be added to the fall calendar.
Word is that the bout between Jaime Munguia and Gabe Rosado is close to completion. No word on which (catch) weight that contest will take place at but this fight would be staged in October. Then the lightweight match-up between Joseph Diaz and Ryan Garcia is still being brandied about, and both boxers are certainly not shy in talking about it on social media. If this bout is consummated, it will most likely be scheduled for November.
There's also talk of bringing back rising welterweight, Vergil Ortiz Jr. in December.
Golden Boy's preference would be for these events to be staged in the Los Angeles/Southern California area.
Editors note: Golden Boy Promotions and DAZN have announced that this Munguia-Riosado will take place on November 13.
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