Usyk beats Joshua again, retains three heavyweight titles

Oleksandr Usyk did it again.

The Ukrainian retained his three heavyweight titles with a split-decision victory over Anthony Joshua in a rematch on Saturday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

One judge somehow scored the bout for Joshua, 115-113, but was overruled by scores of 115-113 and 116-112 in favor of Usyk, who handed Joshua his second straight loss and his third in his last five fights.

Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs) entered the ring with a new trainer, Robert Garcia, but he was outboxed again by the superior Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight world champion.

After the decision was announced, Joshua threw his prior belts out of the ring and stormed out of the ring before eventually coming back in and ranting on the microphone before congratulating Usyk.

"This guy here is a phenomenal talent," he stated.

Usyk, who retained the WBA, WBO, and IBF belts, could face fellow unbeaten world champion Tyson Fury, who holds the WBC belt, despite the Englishman retiring and unretiring multiple times since his last bout, a sixth-round TKO of Dillian Whyte on April 23.

"I'm sure that Tyson Fury is not retired yet," said Usyk. "I'm sure. I'm convinced he wants to fight me. I want to fight him. And if I'm not fighting Tyson Fury, I'm not fighting at all."

Usyk is likely correct as Fury posted a video on his Instagram page following the fight.

"I will annihilate both of them on the same night," Fury said in a video posted on Instagram after Usyk's victory Saturday. "Get your f---ing checkbook out because 'The Gypsy King' is here to stay forever!"

According to Compubox, Usyk landed 170 of 712 punches (24 percent), while Joshua connected with 124 of 492 shots (25 percent). While Joshua was technically the more accurate puncher, his work rate was subdued by Usyk, who hit his rival with clean counters all night.

Usyk-Joshua II was delayed for several months when Usyk, along with good friend and former three-division world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, joined a Ukrainian defense battalion at the commencement of the ongoing war with Russia. The 35-year-old southpaw was granted permission to step down from his post on March 22 to resume his boxing career. Some thought the situation in Ukraine would serve as a distraction for Usyk. Instead, it was a point of motivation.

"I want to thank everyone who prayed for me," said Usyk. "I dedicate this victory to my country, to my family, to my team ... to all military members defending the country."

But on Saturday, Usyk had to overcome the most dramatic moment of his professional career when Joshua hurt him to the body with a myriad of shots in round nine. However, Usyk responded with his best round of the fight. In the 10th, Usyk landed a combination that sent Joshua reeling, connecting on a fight-high 39 of 95 punches in the frame.

"This is already history," said Usyk. "Many generations [are] going to watch this fight, especially the round where someone tried to beat me hard."

Usyk dominated the remainder of the fight behind his superior footwork, which confused the bigger Joshua, who went head hunting searching for the knockout.

Usyk closed strong with a dominant 11th round, when his movement befuddled the bigger Joshua, and a ferocious Round 12, when Joshua went for broke in an attempt to score the knockout.

"What a performance from Usyk," said promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing. "In the ninth round I ran over and thought we had it. The 10th round was one of the best I've seen to turn a fight around. What he did in the 10th, 11th and 12th was incredible. And that was the difference tonight. ... He's just too good, and there's no shame in it [for Joshua]."

Joshua, 32, fell short in his bid to become a three-time heavyweight champion. He was also looking to regain the titles for the second time in Saudi Arabia. After suffering a seventh-round TKO loss to Andy Ruiz in June 2019, Joshua took the belts back six months later. However, this time, he could not exact revenge.

Although he performed better in the rematch, Joshua was outboxed and outworked by Usyk, who improved to 20-0 (13 knockouts). Whether it's at cruiserweight or heavyweight, the Usyk puzzle has yet to be cracked. And it appears the only man who has the skills to potentially decode the cipher is Fury (32-0-1, 23 KOs).

"The Gypsy King" can't say he's the best of his generation until he visits King Usyk.

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