So Usyk has done it twice; beaten Anthony Joshua, that is. The Ukrainian retained the heavyweight world boxing belts he had previously won. At the end of the fight, Joshua took two of the belts, dropped them out of the ring, and stormed off. He returned and said,
“Usyk is one hell of a fighter. That’s just emotion. For 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 as our heavyweight champion of the world.”
“I was studying Ukraine and all the champions from your amazing country. I’ve never been there. What’s happening there, I don’t know, but it’s not nice … under those circumstances, he’s managed to become champion.”
It was supposed to be the night Joshua took back the WBA, WBO, and IBF belts that Usyk had won from him just under a year ago. Billed as the ‘Rage on The Red Sea,’ it did not entirely live up to the hype until Joshua’s uncharacteristic outburst. It had been a relatively evenly matched fight, with Usyk landing heavy punches on his opponent. Unfortunately, Joshua had failed to deliver the knockout blow he needed in the last round, and it came down to a judge’s decision. One judge ruled in favor of the British fighter, but two judges awarded the win to the Ukrainian.
The result means that Usyk has now won all the world boxing belts, apart from the elusive one held by Tyson Fury; the WBC belt. However, what could be a relatively straightforward World Title unification fight between Usyk and Fury is complicated. Tyson has retired twice this year, the last time on his 34th birthday in August. However, that was before the fight in Jeddah, before Usyk retained his titles. At the time of his retirement, Fury said he would not even watch the fight, but then he took to Twitter offering Joshua advice. It seems he was more interested than he was willing to let on.
In the immediate future, Usyk says he will return to Ukraine to help with his country’s war efforts. He joined the Ukrainian military earlier this year after Russia’s invasion of his country. He had only been allowed to leave his motherland to train for the fight against Joshua after receiving special permission from Ukraine’s Minister of Sport.
Usyk devoted his win to his country, saying,
“I devote this victory to my family, my country, my team, to all the military defending this country – thank you so much,”
However, he clearly has the WBC belt in his sights, and he went on to say
“I’m sure that Tyson Fury is not retired yet. I’m convinced he wants to fight me. I want to fight him. If I’m not fighting Fury, I’m not fighting at all.”
“Only God knows whether I will fight him or not, but all these gentlemen here around me, my team, they are going to help me.”
Fury made derisory comments about both fighters when interviewed. The WBC gave him a deadline of 26th August to return his belt. His response was that he would ‘smash’ Usyk to bits. He recorded a video that was posted on his Twitter account, goading Usyk with the following words
“You say you want the WBC, and it’s held by Gypsies. It is held by Gypsies – it’s held by the Gypsy King and it’s held tightly – grasped tight. And all roads lead to a seven-foot behemoth that will absolutely destroy you, middleweight.”
Fury called for Usyk’s team to agree on a date after the Ukrainian said he did not want to fight again this year due to injuries. Anyone who enjoys a bet must be tempted to lay a wager on this rematch. There could be odds at the safest casinos for US players as to whether the match will take place, when it will happen if it does, and who would be the winner if it were to take place. It is always hard to tell with Fury if it is all fighting talk or if he will follow through.
After Fury announced his retirement for the second time this year, his UK promoter Frank Warren remained optimistic that he would be back. In an interview on Sky Sports, he said
“I speak to him all the time. If he wants to fight, he’ll fight. I’m not going to tempt him. Because if he needs that then he shouldn’t be fighting. It’s got to come from him and his heart. Do I think we’ll see Tyson in a ring [again]? I do because I think he’s a fighting man, and I think he’ll miss it too much. The fans love him. He’s got a real rapport with the man on the street. He’s a different class. And he’ll do what he wants to do.”
The win against Joshua was a 20th straight win for Usyk, who remains undefeated across two divisions. After the fight, Joshua praised Usyk for his fighting style and made it clear that he had expected to use his superior weight to beat the Ukrainian. Fury’s words echo the same sentiment, but will the smaller man be the Gypsy King’s undoing?