Oleksandr Usyk Upsets Anthony Joshua | Changes Heavyweight Spectrum

Image Credit: Matchroom Boxing

The heavyweight division shifted dramatically yesterday as Oleksandr Usyk defeated Anthony Joshua.

The former undisputed cruiserweight champion followed up that success by becoming the unified heavyweight champion of the world.

Usyk put on an almost flawless performance in the now-former champ’s backyard of London to dethrone Joshua. The judges saw Usyk win clearly via a unanimous decision with 117-111, 116-112, and 115-113.

And New

Usyk has now captured the IBF, WBA (super), and WBO heavyweight titles. However, the fight wasn’t without its battle scars.

Both walked away with damaged right eyes, but Usyk saw through the pain to prove who was the better boxer that night.

“I couldn’t see in the ninth round, couldn’t see anything really, because my eye was shut,” said Joshua.

“It was a good experience because in adversity you’ve just got to learn to control yourself, stay on top of things, so when I couldn’t see anything – it’s the first time that it’s happened in a fight.”

Devil In The Details

Joshua followed a faulty game plan where he attempted to outbox Usyk. Joshua, the naturally bigger man, didn’t use his weight to pin Usyk and deliver body blow or dirty box. Instead, he stood toe-to-toe with a superior boxer and got outboxed handily to lose his titles.

Usyk, a southpaw, gave Joshua problems both in his punches and when he switched from patience to aggression. In addition, Joshua’s hesitance to throw punches was uncharacteristic and stifled his progress on points.

In the eleventh round, the challenger found the spirit to turn it up on Joshua. It changed a close but lopsided fight to a one-sided win. The champion just didn’t do enough through 12 rounds to take home the “W.”

However, Joshua has an automatic rematch clause. Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn told streaming service DAZN during the postfight show that Joshua would invoke it.

“I’m ready to get back to training. It was a good twelve-rounder, so I’ll be in a good place when I get back into training to pick up where we left off.”

New Heavyweight Spectrum

Joshua was behind on the scorecards all night against the Ukrainian mandatory challenger. Joshua took on the former cruiserweight champion in a homecoming bout in the spirit of taking all comers. In addition, Joshua just signed a long-term deal with his promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing.

However, Usyk threw a wrench in the plans to keep Joshua in position to create an all-British heavyweight bonanza. With Tyson Fury having already predicted a win over Wilder and a fight with Joshua next, the heavyweight ranks will have to wait longer to see who truly is the best in the division.

“I don’t see it happening now,” said Frank Warren, Fury’s U.K. promoter after the fight to BBC.

“If it did happen, what would Tyson have done to him? It wouldn’t have gone 12 rounds. Tyson would have destroyed him. Absolutely. The unification fight was there, such a big fight. Heartbreaking.

“What would Tyson Fury have done to Joshua? A better chin, bigger puncher.”

Moreover, British fighters like Dillian Whyte and Derek Chisora, who are on Fury’s hit list, create a host of intriguing heavyweight matchups that can potentially make the U.K. the home of the heavyweight showdowns.

As a result, the plan for an All-British four-belt unification between Joshua and Tyson Fury might be over. Wilder faces Fury on Oct. 9 after winning his rematch clause bid with the current WBC champ.

Joshua has to reclaim his unified heavyweight championship, with these two defeats on his record, to make the most significant impact in British boxing.

“I can’t go back and sulk,” said Joshua, “that’s wasting time.”

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.