Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk retains heavyweight titles by beating Anthony Joshua

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Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk retained the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles by defeating Britain’s Anthony Joshua by a split decision of the judges (113-115, 115-113, 116-112) on Saturday night to Sunday in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia.

“I dedicate this victory to my country, to my family, to my team and to all the soldiers who defend the country.” It is with these words that the Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk declared his victory against the Briton Anthony Joshua (24 wins, 3 losses, 22 knockouts), Saturday August 20, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Undefeated at 35 (20 wins, 0 games, 13 knockouts), Usyk retains his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles.

He had already beaten his 32-year-old opponent on points and unanimously in September in London. This time, the big “AJ” (1.98 m against 1.91 m) raised his level and went on the attack in the second round. However, that was not enough to win against his rival, Ukrainian favorite of the bettors for only his fourth fight in the category and carried by his country invaded by Russia.

The boxer wore the colors of Ukraine and the words “the colors of freedom” on his outfit. In the days leading up to the fight, he had sung a patriotic song in front of the media dressed in a traditional costume, his head shaved except for a Cossack-style lock of hair.

The clash was exceptionally broadcast for free in Ukraine, where Usyk served as a volunteer in the army in February, before accepting this rematch.

He can now consider a possible unification fight against the Briton Tyson Fury, 34 (32 v., 1 draw), who holds the WBC heavyweight belt, if he decides to return to the ring after having once further announced his retirement on August 12.

“I’m sure Tyson Fury isn’t retired yet. I’m sure he wants to fight me,” Usyk said. “I want to fight him and, if I don’t fight Tyson Fury, I wouldn’t fight at all.”

First female professional boxing fight in Saudi Arabia

After the clash, Joshua punctuated his speech with swear words, despite the presence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of the very conservative Saudi Arabia.

“I just spoke from my heart. It’s been so hard,” said the Briton, adding, “you have to be very strong and tonight there’s a little crack in the armour.”

“You saw AJ’s reaction, it was like a human being who wanted to win so badly, with so much pressure on his shoulders. I think he just exploded because he lost and he was devastated”, an added son agent, Eddie Hearn.

Less sparkling since his surprise defeat in 2019 against Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr., the London Olympic champion in 2012 had dismissed rumors of retirement in the event of defeat before the fight.

The evening also saw the first women’s professional boxing bout in the kingdom, won by Somali-born Briton Ramla Ali with a knockout. in the first round against the Dominican Crystal Garcia Nova.

Like the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia, this fight is one of the events for which Riyadh – which is seeking to diversify its oil economy – is accused of “sportswashing” (a way of restoring the international image of the country, regularly accused of human rights violations, through sporting events).

For his part, the Frenchman Mathieu Bauderlique, 33 (21 v. 2 J.), did not manage to thwart the predictions and win his WBC light heavyweight semi-final against the Briton Callum Smith (29 v ., 1 d.).

Although on the offensive from the start of the fight, the bronze medalist of the Rio Olympics in 2016 lost by K.-O. in the fourth round, after taking a second left hook.

With AFP


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