On Saturday night, Oleksandr Usyk shook up the boxing world, taking down unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in a stunning turn of events.
There is an adage in boxing that a great big man will beat a great smaller man. Yet on this day, that was not the case.
Oleksandr Usyk (19-0 13 KOs), the smaller fighter standing 6-foot-3, 221 pounds, wasn’t exactly tiny but in this era of heavyweight boxing, it is in some observer’s eyes. In Anthony Joshua, Usyk took on the unified heavyweight champion standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 240 pounds — a much bigger fighter. All eyes were on this fight and though many saw Usyk as a worthy challenger, the consensus was that Joshua would have his hand raised at the night’s end.
Well, it was Oleksandr Usyk who surprised many and the “Road Warrior” took another title in his opponent’s home country.
Oleksandr Usyk in the early going
Oleksandr Usyk didn’t waste any time being the aggressor in this one. The movement and feints were bothering Joshua as he would end up getting caught by either a straight left or overhand left from Usyk. Joshua seemed to paw his jab early on and wasn’t putting much into it. Usyk kept moving around and giving Joshua angles that would leave Joshua bewildered. The initial thought was why is Joshua, the bigger puncher and bigger man not trying to bully Usyk as he tried to outbox him and that is not in his favor. Usyk stunned and wobbled Joshua towards the last 30 seconds of round three and Joshua was able to withstand the action and get out without being dropped, but Usyk had established that he was a real threat and did not come with the thought they he could lose.
The action picked up here and we saw Joshua get back into the fight as he began to touch and move Usyk. In round 6, after landing some good right hands, Usyk was content to move around and let the round end after being hit with the solid shots. Joshua’s adjustments helped close the gap and made it seem as if he was starting to get Usyk in trouble as he had finally gotten the better of the exchanges and possibly hurt Usyk.
It seemed Usyk maybe just needed his second wind and come round seven he responded. through all of that Usyk landed clean punches and appeared to stun Joshua in the round. The momentum Joshua had captured seemed to be grabbed back by a great round by Usyk as we crept closer to the championship rounds.
A very tough-to-score eighth round provided a very entertaining round in a good fight. Oleksandr Usyk continued to feint and land the left hand, but Joshua was taking a little something out of his punches and then will land some good body shots and Oleksandr Usyk would react to these shots. The round was good but tough to score due to the work both were doing. The work as the last few rounds went on began to favor Usyk as Joshua seemed to be tiring and had his right eye began to inflate. Usyk was doing well but also was cut over his right eye in the 10th and the energy in the arena was the type to get your blood pressure checked.
The final two rounds are made for those who want to make a statement and Usyk left no doubt as he won these rounds and had Joshua in trouble against the ropes as the bell sounded. Usyk began to unload in those final seconds and maybe 15 seconds more we may have seen Joshua on the canvas. As the bell rang, Usyk dropped to his knees and walked around in joy, feeling he had done enough, and Joshua sat in the corner and looked in pain.
Joshua remained in the corner sitting until the scorecards were raised and once they were, Usyk became the new unified heavyweight champion with scores of (117-112, 115-113,116-112). I had it (116-112) in favor of Oleksander Usyk as well. Other winners on the card former super middleweight champion Callum Smith may have gotten the knockout of the year against Lenin Castillo and current WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie in the initial defense of his title won by knockout from a left hand to the body.
In the lead-up to this fight, some asked how Joshua would react to a southpaw, but Oleksandr Usyk would drown them out did not look well in his first two fights at heavyweight. The question of how Usyk would react to being hit by a bigger man was answered by he had fought more prominent men in the World Series of Boxing and his amateur days. Usyk put on a tremendous performance and was the clear winner here.
When I spoke to boxing historian and CompuBox member Lee Groves, he presented me with good quotes and questions.
First, what does this do for Oleksandr Usyk’s legacy and place among all-time greats, including the most potent fighter from Ukraine? Second, where does this leave Joshua now and what does it do for his legacy? For a second time, when he was a clear favorite, he lost decisively.
Third, what effect may this have on Tyson Fury and his matchup with Deontay Wilder on October 9th? Fury was thinking in the summer he had a possible 100-million-dollar fight with Joshua to the trilogy with Wilder and now a potential match up with the very tricky Usyk.
Finally, what will Fury’s mindset now be in that fight? Groves said for the tough times boxing endures over the summer, this fight might spearhead a great ending to the year and the statement couldn’t be more accurate.
It was a great fight and an upset to the boxing world, but it sets up a possible rematch and more intrigue to the glamour division in boxing.