Oleksandr Usyk beats Anthony Joshua, keeps heavyweight belts – Whittier Daily News
KING ABDULLAH SPORTS CITY, Saudi Arabia — Oleksandr Usyk kissed Ukraine’s blue and yellow flag and gazed at the Saudi Arabian sky as he waited to find out if he had honored his war-torn country by winning his world titles in the retained the heavyweight.
Hearing the victorious words “and still,” an emotional Usyk raised his left arm and pulled the flag over his face.
Six months ago, he was patrolling the streets of Kyiv with an automatic rifle, defending Ukraine from invading Russians.
Here in the ring at King Abdullah Sport City’s arena, the still undefeated Usyk had lived up to his reputation as the sporting pride of Ukraine by defeating Anthony Joshua in a hard-fought rematch on Saturday to secure his WBA, WBO and IBF – belt to keep.
“I dedicate this victory to my country, my family, my team and all the military who are defending this country,” Usyk, 35, said through a translator. “Thanks alot.”
After a grueling five-month training camp, Usyk entered the arena in a blue and yellow top that read “Colors of Freedom” and supported by words of encouragement from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his late night video address to the nation.
“We stick together,” said the President. “We help each other. We restore what has been destroyed. We fight for all our people. And today we cheer for the representatives of Ukraine – definitely Usyk, our man!”
And Usyk started as a favorite after outclassing Joshua in the first fight in London last September.
However, the British challenger, a former two-time champion, came into the rematch with a new game plan from his new coach Robert Garcia: attack Usyk’s body and keep the pressure on.
And it almost worked when Usyk pushed his limits in the ninth round as he was chased around the ring by Joshua, who was landing combinations and targeting Usyk’s ribs.
Usyk took a deep breath at the bell, then came out hard in the 10th round, hurting Joshua with an early right hook and forcing him on the ropes for the first time in the fight.
The punches against Joshua continued in the 11th while the 12th was evenly fought, the fight ending with both fighters – clearly exhausted – falling to their knees in front of each other.
They hugged and Joshua seemed to offer his help to Ukraine’s plight.
Then, in an explosive speech in the ring after grabbing the mic, Joshua – who was seen moments earlier picking up two of Usyk’s belts and throwing them to the canvas – slammed back at his critics before praising Usyk for letting him had fought so well in combat circumstances.
“I’ve studied Ukraine and all the champions from your amazing country,” Joshua said. “I’ve never been there. I don’t know what happens there, but it’s not pretty. For Usyk to become champion under these circumstances, please raise your hands.”
Usyk was also full of praise for Joshua.
“That’s history,” he said. “Many generations will watch this fight, especially the round where someone tried to hit me hard. But I fought back and turned it around.”
Usyk also picked up the Ring Magazine belt with the win. There’s only one heavyweight title Usyk doesn’t own – the WBC title which is soon to be vacated by Tyson Fury, who says he’s retired.
When asked about Fury, Usyk said: “I’m sure Tyson Fury is not retired yet. I’m sure Tyson Fury wants to fight me. If I’m not fighting Tyson Fury, I’m not fighting at all.”
Two judges gave it to Usyk, one 115-113 and the other 116-112. The other gave the fight to Joshua, 115-113.
Joshua, a two-time heavyweight champion, lost for the third time in 27 fights and his career is at a crossroads.
Where Usyk goes now seems to depend on Fury.
Saudi state television released photos showing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman taking part in the fight. The 36-year-old son of King Salman, the crown prince, has been pushing for sporting events to come to the kingdom, despite US intelligence agencies believing he ordered the beheading and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.