Oleksandr Usyk is edging closer to being regarded boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighter after retaining his world heavyweight championship belts with a split decision win in Jeddah that triggered a bizarre post-fight meltdown from his opponent Anthony Joshua.
The Ukrainian dethroned Joshua in London last September and on this occasion retained the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO straps while also becoming The Ring champion too in shorts containing the colors of his country’s flag.
As previously promised, Joshua was far more aggressive this time in the two men’s second meeting and did not make the same mistake of trying to outbox his two-time Olympic gold medalist foe Usyk.
Taking the fight to the middle of the ring, Joshua picked up rounds and seemed to claim the ninth by unleashing a barrage of blows that put Usyk in trouble.
In the tenth, however, Usyk turned up the class with a big left hook and then cruised in the last two three-minute installments to win 115-113 and 116-112 on two of the judges’ cards.
The other one read 115-113 in Joshua’s favor, which raised eyebrows in the King Abdullah Sports City in the Saudi capital.
Yet in not being ready to accept a second consecutive defeat, Brit Joshua embarked on a meltdown for the ages that started when throwing two of Usyk’s belts out of the ring and storming off.
Anthony Joshua lost his temper after losing his rematch to Oleksandr Usyk and reacted angrily by throwing two belts out of the ring. 🚨pic.twitter.com/VjS8z3UrGl
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) August 20, 2022
Joshua later returned to the square circle and, after confronting Usyk, grabbed the microphone to tell those in attendance and the millions watching around the world that: «If you knew my story you would understand the passion.»
«I ain’t no f***ing amateur boxer from five-years-old that was an elite prospect from youth,» he continued.
«I was going to jail, I got bail and I started training my a*** off, because if I got sentenced I wanted to be able to fight.
«I’m stealing this Usyk, sorry, but it’s because of the f*****g passion we put into this s***,» Joshua also said, while elsewhere mentioning «civil war».
Draped in Usyk’s Ukrainian flag, Joshua changed to a more respectful tone for his dance partner by saying: «This guy, to beat me tonight – maybe I could have done better – but it shows the levels of hard work he must have put in so please give him a round of applause for our heavyweight champion of the world.
«I’m not a 12-round fighter. Look at me, I’m the new breed of heavyweights,» he insisted.
«All those heavyweights, Mike Tyson, Sonny Liston, Jack Dempsey… ‘Oh you don’t throw combinations like Rocky Marciano’ – because I ain’t f*****g 14 stone, that’s why.
«I’m 18 stone, I’m heavy. It’s hard work. This guy here’s a phenomenal talent,» the London 2012 hero accepted.
Joshua’s mental breakdown continued at the post-fight press conference where he burst into tears after being asked if he was proud of himself.
«It’s really, really hard for me to say I’m proud of myself. I don’t feel anything, I’m just… I’m upset. Deep, down in my heart,» he said.
Consoled by promoter Eddie Hearn, Joshua pointed out that he «tried a different style» that was still to no avail.
«Previously in my career what got me through when I was beating people I have been beating… I was beating them off sheer hunger and passion.
«In the last fight I wanted to compete as a boxer but it wasn’t good enough and tonight wasn’t good enough,» he conceded.
Between these two incidents, Joshua also lost his head when told to «keep it professional» by a man believed to be the referee for the Filip Hrgovic versus Zhilei Zhang bout on the undercard back stage.
As he was restrained by security, Joshua shouted: «Who are you talking to? Who the f*** are you talking to? Are you mad?» in scenes caught on camera.
Yet while it has been suggested that his third career loss might send Joshua into retirement, domestic rival Tyson Fury seems to be coming out of his to take on Usyk as hinted in an Instagram video.
«After watching that, the both of them were s****,» said the Mancunian.
«It was one of the worst heavyweight title fights I’ve ever seen.
«It was bull****, come on! I’d annihilate both of them on the same night. F***ing s****,» he bragged.
«Get your f***ing cheque book out, because the ‘Gypsy King’ is here to stay forever!»
Probed on a potential super-fight, Usyk stated that he was «sure that Fury is not retired yet».
«I’m convinced he wants to fight me,» Usyk continued.
«I want to fight him, if I’m not fighting Fury, I’m not fighting at all. Only God knows if I will be undisputed or not,» the 35-year-old concluded.
With Fury not relinquishing his WBC strap yet after supposedly hanging up his gloves last week, a clash between the two would finally see the winner become the four-belt era’s maiden undisputed heavyweight champion.