Oleksandr Usyk defeated Anthony Joshua in Jeddah by split decision to successfully defend his world champion heavyweight titles.
A little over a year after snatching the British fighter’s WBA Super, IBF, and WBO belts from him in a unanimous victory at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the Ukrainian successfully defended those titles in Saudi Arabia.
Usyk’s second victory over his adversary solidifies his position at the top of the heavyweight category, with Tyson Fury—another clear contender—again retiring for the time being.
But Joshua did himself no disgrace in defeat, producing a resurgent display to go toe-to-toe throughout in a fight that may quiet questions around his future despite the loss.
The pair warmly embraced after the final bell and together held aloft the Ukrainian flag in a show of solidarity before the scores were read out to confirm Usyk’s defence.
While one judge scored the fight 115-113 in Joshua’s favour, another had the same result for Usyk, with the third decisively awarding the champion a 116-112 success.
Joshua tried to assert early dominance by maintaining a steadier command of the centre of the ring than he had displayed in London the year prior during a low-wattage opening that revealed little between the two fighters.
However, Usyk’s more animated start to the fourth brought the two into a more intense fight, and the tension was amplified by both fighters’ flurry of hooks and uppercuts in the sixth round.
After midway through the battle, it appeared as though Joshua may lose because of his inability to land low blows, but a devastating combination in the ninth round sent his opponent backtracking into the ropes.
But Usyk quickly replied, as his uncanny precision nearly kept Joshua at bay during an exciting conclusion to secure a second straight points victory.