The belts shall remain in Ukraine! After last night’s mega-boxing event, Oleksandr Usyk cruised (pun intended) to a controversial split decision win over long time champion Anthony Joshua. Usyk boxed nearly perfect all night. Despite Joshua’s best efforts, Usyk could not be denied all night. Now it’s on to Aftermath, where we break down the fight!
Anthony Joshua: Sometimes your best is not enough
In the Beforemath article I did on the match leading up to the fight, I laid out some things Anthony Joshua needed to do to slow down and beat Oleksandr Usyk in the rematch in Saudi Arabia. The big takeaway was the body work for Joshua. In that article, I said the following:
Circling back, Joshua needs to invest in tiring out Usyk going into the rematch. Usyk was faster and more fresh than Anthony Joshua most of the night. That means lean on Usyk in the clinch. Keep the Ukrainian on his back foot. And most importantly, work the body.
The thing is Joshua really did all that. He came forward and had Usyk backing up. He worked the body. He leaned on Usyk. He did everything a fighter who is going to beat Oleksandr Usyk is going to do and he still didn’t win. Joshua fought the best fight he could and it wasn’t enough. And there is no shame in that. Anthony Joshua has some amazing wins. He defeated Wladimir Klitcschko and became champion. He missed some opportunities with failing to make the Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder fights when he was at the top. But he took a major chance at fighting Usyk last year and he came up short.
Anthony Joshua wasn’t the better man in the boxing ring on that fateful night. And he was not the best last night either. Oleksandr Usyk is the better fighter.
Oleksandr Usyk: For the people, by the people
I’m not going to spend time breaking down Oleksandr Usyk’s fantastic performance against Anthony Joshua. Instead, I want to take some time to talk about what it means for the people of Ukraine that their countryman prevailed in less than favorable conditions.
As you know, Russia invaded the sovereign nation of Ukraine last February. Since then the Ukrainians have fought back the Russian army with great cost to their country. The Ukraine people are seeing their homes, cities, and schools destroyed by air raid missiles. Their people are dying. Friends and family, all gone.
We’ve seen Vasyl Lomachenko, Vlad and Wlad Klitschko, and Yaroslav Amosov fight for their country alongside Oleksandr Usyk. Remember, the war put the heavyweight rematch in limbo as Usyk was fighting the war himself. Stanislav Horuna auctioned off his Olympic medal to raise money for the war. The cost to the people in Ukraine has hit everyone from the common man to the heavyweight champion of the world.
What Usyk did in Saudi Arabia was nothing short of spectacular. It wasn’t because he boxed well even though Joshua fought the perfect fight. Instead, Usyk went into the boxing ring with the weight of his country on his shoulders. But much like the Greek god Atlas, who held the world on his shoulders, when the weight of what was going on in his country bore more weight on his shoulders, Usyk shrugged and provided the inspiration for his home country.
Sports have always been political. Americans tend to view the world in their own narrow sense of things and see things from an American point of view, which is understandable. But the world is a large place. There are over 44 million people in Ukraine. You can bet that nearly everyone in the country were tuned in to watch Oleksandr Usyk defend his titles against the ever-popular Anthony Joshua.
While Joshua wasn’t Russian, you can bet the Ukrainian people juxtaposed the heavyweight title fight between Usyk and Joshua with the war between Ukraine and Russia. It’s them against “the world” and as far as the Ukrainians are concerned Russia is the entire world and they will fight for their country until their last citizen gives their life.
Oleksandr Usyk provided hope to the people of Ukraine. Anthony Joshua was the bigger man. He was stronger than Usyk. But Usyk went in with the Ukraine fighting spirit and slayed the giant, Goliath.
The Ukrainians stare down the Russian Goliath in the face and dare not to back down. They are the small David armed with a slingshot and five smooth stones…
In addition to covering Olympic karate and kickboxing for My MMA News, Blaine Henry, the author, also analyzes fights from all combat sports across the globe.
Your friendly neighborhood fight fan. I watch way too many fights and my wife lets me know it.