Posted on 09/25/2021
By: Hans Themistode
It was inevitable.
After sharing the gold medal stage in the 2012 Olympic Games, albeit in separate weight classes, heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua knew he would eventually face Oleksandr Usyk. Nine years following their Olympic triumphs, the two met at the top of the heavyweight mountain top.
Oleksandr Usyk sauntered his way to the ring with a sly smile on his face. The British crowd who booed his entrance seemingly had no effect on the Ukrainian native. As the opening round tipped off to start their contest, the crowd roared as Joshua flicked several jabs in the direction of his man.
None, however, landed as Usyk proved to be far too elusive in the early going. The former undisputed cruiserweight bounced on his toes and began moving side to side. While he seldom threw any shots, Usyk was patiently waiting for the perfect opening. That would come just one minute into the first round.
As Joshua uncorked a strong right hand, Usyk slipped the shot and landed a straight left hand. With his first connect on the night, Usyk began putting the pressure on his man. The punches of the Ukrainian may have come few and far between but he feinted Joshua to no end and caused the former unified heavyweight titlist to come out of position on several occasions.
In the following frame, Usyk enjoyed even more success. He pushed out a strong jab and used unorthodox angles to make Joshua miss on several occasions. As Joshua’s punches failed to connect, Usyk made him pay, landing numerous jabs and straight lefts.
Those previously mentioned left hands of Usyk became a consistent theme throughout their showdown. Joshua, while game, was unable to avoid the nonstop barrage of the Ukrainian early on.
Still, although Usyk remained effective, Joshua continued to move forward. As the middle rounds came rolling by, the former heavyweight titlist began finding his range. He connected on several hard right hands that seemed to stagger Usyk into the ropes. Despite the success, Usyk flashed a bright grin. From there, he moved back to the center of the ring and easily outboxed his man again.
During the seventh round, Joshua continued to attack the head of Usyk but to no avail. Seemingly through with his one-sided tactics, Joshua went downstairs to the midsection in an attempt to slow him down.
Usyk grimaced in pain during the eighth round as the work rate and pressure of Joshua continued to increase. As the rounds continued to slowly pass by, Usyk, fighting on foreign ground, refused to sit back on his laurels. The former cruiserweight undisputed champion pushed the pace and found a home for his straight left hand.
During the championship rounds, a heavily breathing Joshua lumbered to the middle of the ring. Usyk, on the other hand, appeared fresh as he continually bounced up and down on his toes. While Usyk spent the majority of their contest outboxing his man, he spent the remainder of their bout bullying Joshua. In the 12th, in particular, Usyk pressed Joshua up against the ropes and unloaded several unanswered shots.
Joshua, to his credit, had on his best poker face. He smiled at Usyk and stuck out of his tongue as he egged him on. Regardless of the hubris Joshua showed, the three judges scoring the contest from ringside simply weren’t buying it as they handed Usyk the unanimous decision victory.