It was really near. It took courage. Anthony Joshua watched the fight to both recall and to help him forget the first one. The person responsible for reviving boxing in Britain found salvation.
The rematch was more important than the Ukrainian’s ability to confuse Joshua. He gave a performance of the finest calibre, but it was still insufficient. He was so close that he threw Usyk’s three belts out of the ring out of desperation.
To his great credit, he disregarded that expression of annoyance and praised the guy who had maintained the heavyweight world titles, saying, “He had to be one hell of a fighter to beat me the way I fought tonight after all the preparation we had put in.”
In an impassioned speech that was packed with details about his boxing and life experiences and was dripping with technical jargon, he paid tribute to his adversary, making it feel as though it were a farewell. Let’s hope not.
Joshua can fight for another 10 years if he wants to, unlike the Joshua who competed in London 11 months ago. There was also pride. He encouraged the crowd to applaud Usyk by saying, “Hip, hip, hurrah,” not just for going to war but also for returning to fight. Happy dance for AJ.
Usyk said he may not fight again if he isn’t given the chance to take the WBC belt away from Tyson Fury because he now wants the undisputed world title so desperately.
That defeat would be even more painful than the split judgement, 116–112, rendered by a Ukrainian judge in favour of his countryman. The American gave Joshua the advantage, 115–113. The English judge favoured Usyk 115 to 113. Even though I gave it to Usyk, there could not have been much debate with those.
The King Abdullah’s Arena didn’t come close to filling its 10,000 seats until an hour and a half before midnight because they enjoy a late night in Sandy Lane much more than they love blood sports.
In the antechambers, which could easily be converted into bars, they might have cut it more finely if there was total prohibition in the Kingdom. The Royal family made grand entrances, many carrying young children in their arms.
Not here, early bedtimes. And unless AJ or Olexsandr took care of business promptly, it would be nearly dawn before they returned home.
Joshua was forced to seek revenge for losing his titles to Usyk in September with only a small portion of his typical Brit pack of several thousands by his side. Naturally, fans continued to escalate their “Oh, Anthony Joshua” chants.
Amir Khan travelled from Dubai on one of two or three planes carrying largely foreigners. If it wasn’t Wembley or Tottenham, the atmosphere in the hall was nonetheless lively. The dramatic TV ads that came before the fighters’ ring entrances served as drumbeats.
The early arrivals had been standing and cheering together for a handful of undercard knockouts that belonged on the highlight reel. They included Callum Smith’s signature left hook, which puts him in the running for the higher-level light heavyweight crown.
Usyk and Joshua were greeted by raucous cheers after Joshua entered the arena first as the challenger. Joshua’s performance this time was anticipated to be more seductive. Even so, there is hope for more of the same glitz and glamour from the favourite from Ukraine.
It was time for the The Rage On The Red Sea, which was intended to take place in April, but better late than never. Joshua prowled the arena as the two waited for the bout to begin, and Usyk remained intently focused in his corner.
A hurry from AJ in the opening round? In contrast to the previous fight, where he was hardly present, he did go to the body enough to imply it might be his plan.
Joshua commanded the middle of the ring in the second round and maintained control with his jab. As the right hand entered the fight and Usyk barely connected, he appeared to be a different fighter at this point.
Joshua continued to mix it up to the body and land more forcefully during the following three-minute section. AJ won yet another round in the bank, but Usyk began to warm up toward the end.
In the fourth round, Usyk began to establish his range and rhythm, landing combinations to the head. The fifth round was closer to equal and Usyk was winning until AJ moved his body attack underneath the belt.
Joshua paused and issued a warning before starting his attack again. I wasn’t sure who had won this match, and neither did either set of fans.
The Ukrainian genius then won the sixth round and continued his comeback in the seventh round by slipping in and out of range of Joshua and picking him apart.
In the eighth round, Joshua followed up with a powerful right to the head and a few to the body. Usyk was getting into a bigger flow even though his performance was significantly better than it was in September of last year.
Joshua scored a major victory in the ninth round as he sent Usyk flying around the ring and forced him to stay on despite a steady bombardment of heavy punches. However, the tenth was when Joshua started to stumble after some stunning Usyk combinations.
In the eleventh round, the battle started to lose steam, and by the fourteenth, Joshua had failed to secure the necessary knockout.