Oleksandr Usyk beats Anthony Joshua in split decision thriller to keep heavyweight crown and leave AJ’s career in limbo | The Sun

ANTHONY JOSHUA was beaten again by Oleksandr Usyk in another epic heavyweight world title thriller on points – but went out swinging.

The 32-year-old Brit was dethroned in a unanimous decision against the 35-year-old Ukraine icon 11 months ago in Tottenham.

And here in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the ex-undisputed cruiserweight king still had too much experience, skill and stamina.

However, AJ went out like a hero, losing a split decision, before going on a bizarre rant post-fight in the ring.

American Glenn Feldman woefully scored it 115-113 to the Watford man, England’s Steve Gray wisely went 115-113 Usyk and Ukraine’s Victor Fesechko fairly called it 116-112 to his compatriot.

Usyk sent a message Tyson Fury's way after registering his first defence of the heavyweight throne.


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He said: "I'm sure that Tyson Fury is not retired yet. I'm convinced he wants to fight me.

"I want to fight him and if I'm not fighting Tyson Fury, I'm not fighting at all."

During the booming national anthems, Usyk never moved off his spot in the corner, proudly picking out the yellow and green flags and t-shirts in the crowd.

Joshua paced his side of the ring, not in a nervous way – like he had talked about feeling in the build-up – more like a caged lion marking out his territory.

Usyk was decked twice in the amateurs with body shots and AJ targeted his torso instantly, with jabs, backhands and hooks.


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When Usyk threw his first big southpaw left hand, AJ slipped it in an encouraging sign of an improved defence.

But the best scoring shot was probably a stiff jab that rocked the Brit's head back.

After more good bodywork at the start of the second, an uppercut-left-hook combination all the way from Watford got the split crowd roaring for AJ.

Usyk’s jab remained his best shot and, although it was accurate, it had little chance of hurting our focused former champ.

The third really caught fire, with both men landing power punches in the opening 40 seconds.

The action cooled but one thing that was evident was that AJ had learned to not let leftie Usyk control his lead left hand with his own right paw.

Last time it was a critical mistake.

AJ was hurt for the first time in the fourth when four stiff left hands found his face unguarded.

Thankfully the last couple did not go unanswered and the lionheart swang back, warning Usyk he was not there to be beaten.

AJ landed a low blow halfway through the round that made Usyk gasp.

Referee Luis Pabon stopped the action and gave the challenger a verbal warning.

Usyk complained about another below-the-belt dig, and it seemed AJ might have been coming through on his promise to bully the older but smaller man.

The Englishman even ended the stanza throwing a few extra blows after the bell that missed.

AJ was slow getting off his stall for the sixth, raising concerns about his engine way too early for comfort.

Usyk’s punishing blows were causing a welt to grow on AJ’s right eye and a lump in our throats.

Our AJ was slowing down and getting hit far easier now than in the first half of the bout.

Usyk was still slipping and sliding and finding angles.

Another piston-like left hand smashed Joshua’s blood and sweat into the artificially chilled air in the seventh. It was another session in the bank for Usyk.

The wet ring needed to be mopped at the start of the eighth, giving gasping AJ an extra breather.

Then Joshua almost slipped over and the ref caught him mid-air.

Josh went to town on Usyk’s vulnerable ribs, slashing hooks with alternate hands, refusing to go down without a fight.

This was a far cry from the man who accepted defeat around the same time in Tottenham last September and coasted to a respectable points loss.

This was a warrior ready and willing to go out on his shield, if he had to.

AJ’s amazing gifts gave us incredible hope for glory in the ninth, he chased Usyk around the ring, unloaded dozens of blows and hurt him a handful of times.

Usyk was buzzed, almost broken, the UK crowd was on their feet, full of belief. The bell saved Usyk.

But then AJ’s engine betrayed him in the tenth, he had blown his gasket seconds earlier.

Usyk piled on and Joshua seemed doomed, checked-out and destined for the deck.

Heroically he somehow rallied and bullied Usyk back onto the ropes until the referee split them up.

But Usyk has the blood of this Englishman coursing through his nose and he gave AJ a pasting right up until the bell.

AJ remaining upright was a miracle, the bell saved him.

Round 11 was hard to watch at times, as Usyk used AJ’s puffy face as a target board for his jabs and uppercuts.

Still, the millionaire with all the brands and fans, stood tall and hit back like a desperate pauper.

We needed a miracle in the final stanza.

But each time Joshua lunged in Usyk countered with a combination.

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Perhaps Usyk just being able to compete – even against our man – while his country remains fighting against Russia is enough devine intervention for one boxing match.

The bell went, the brilliant, brave and £33million richer men hugged, and Anthony Joshua started his third rebuilding project.


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