Oleksandr Usyk defeated Anthony Joshua by split decision to retain his heavyweight boxing titles at the Rage on the Red Sea in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, early on Sunday morning.
Usyk used his footwork and speed to keep consistent pressure on the Briton throughout the 12 rounds.
Joshua, on the other hand, managed to keep collected throughout the fight and found some success by punishing his opponent with body shots.
The ninth round saw Usyk in more trouble than at any other point when the contender landed some heavy shots, but found himself unable to finish the champion before the bell.
In the following round, the Ukrainian’s right eye was visibly bruised. He came out strong and fired a quick succession of punches, taking advantage of Joshua’s exertion after a burst of activity in the ninth.
Usyk, in a post-fight interview, expressed his desire to take on retired WBC champion Tyson Fury, and believes that he would come out of retirement to take up the challenge.
“I’m convinced he wants to fight me,” he said. “I want to fight him and if I’m not fighting Tyson Fury, I’m not fighting at all.”
After the decision was announced, Joshua stormed out of the ring before apparently having a change of heart and stepping back over the ropes to take the mic and praise the champion.
During a press conference after the fight, he explained.
“When you’re angry you might do stupid things,” he said. “Then I realized ‘oh s*** this is sport.’ So I came back and spoke from my heart.”
It was the pair’s second meeting in the ring, after Usyk took Joshua’s WBA ‘Super,’ IBF, WBO, and IBO belts in September 2021 in a unanimous decision.
Joshua was the heavier of the two, with more than ten kilograms on his opponent, but nonetheless Usyk was the favorite to win going into the fight.
That match was the second loss of Joshua’s career, following a technical knockout by Andy Ruiz Jr. at 2019’s Clash on the Dunes in Riyadh.
Five months after Usyk’s 2021 win over Joshua, Russia invaded his home country of Ukraine and the newly-crowned champion was enlisted to help with the war effort.
The boxer was a member of Kyiv’s Territorial Defense Force, patrolling the streets of the capital.
After several months on duty, the star athlete left the country to begin preparations for his rematch against Joshua, spending part of his training camp in Dubai.
Usyk has previously said that he will be returning to his homeland soon after the rematch with Joshua.