Oleksandr Usyk leaned forward and planted a passionate kiss on Ukraine’s blue-and-yellow flag before looking up at the night sky in Saudi Arabia. He was waiting to find out if he had done his war-torn homeland justice by successfully defending his world heavyweight titles.
After hearing the words “and still,” which indicated victory, an emotional Usyk raised his left arm and pulled the flag over his face to cover his expression.
Six months ago, he was carrying an automatic weapon through the streets of Kyiv in order to protect Ukraine from the Russian forces that were invading.
The still-unbeaten Usyk had lived up to his billing as the sporting pride of Ukraine by prevailing over Anthony Joshua in a closely fought rematch on Saturday to preserve his WBA, WBO, and IBF belts. The fight took place inside the ring at King Abdullah Sport City venue in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Usyk, who is 35 years old, said through a translator and said, “I dedicate my win to my country, to my family, to my team, and to all of the military personnel protecting this country.” “I cannot thank you enough for anything.”
Following a hard five-month training camp, Usyk entered the arena wearing a blue and yellow shirt that bore the slogan “Colors of Freedom.” He was also accompanied by words of encouragement from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his nightly video message to the nation. Usyk won the fight.
The President stated, “We stick together” in his speech. “We look out for one another. We put back together what had been broken. We fight for each and every one of our people. And we offer our support to all who are currently representing Ukraine, especially to our very own Usyk!
And Usyk was the pre-fight favourite after dominating Joshua in the first fight, which took place in London in September of the previous year.
However, the British challenger, who was a former two-time champion, came into the rematch with a fresh game plan from his new trainer, Robert Garcia. The goal was to attack Usyk’s body and to keep the pressure on.
And it almost worked, as Usyk was nearly knocked out in the ninth round as Joshua pursued him around the ring and landed combinations while targeting Usyk’s ribs. Joshua’s strategy was nearly successful.
Joshua was injured by an early right hook from Usyk in the tenth round, which forced Joshua onto the ropes for the first time in the fight. After taking a deep breath after the bell, Usyk came out swinging hard in the tenth round.
Both fighters were visibly weary by the time the battle came to a close with both getting down on their knees in front of each other on the canvas. Joshua continued to take punishment in the 11th round while the fight was evenly contested in the 12th.
They kissed, and it seemed as though Joshua was offering his assistance to the people of Ukraine in their time of need.
Then, in an expletive-filled speech inside the ring after grabbing the microphone, Joshua – who just moments earlier was seen picking up two of Usyk’s belts and throwing them to the canvas – hit back at his critics before praising Usyk for fighting so well under the circumstances. Joshua’s speech came after he was seen picking up two of Usyk’s belts and throwing them to the canvas.
Joshua stated, “I was studying Ukraine and all of the champions from your great country.” “I was studying champions from your country.” “I’ve never been there. I have no idea what’s going on over there, but whatever it is, it’s certainly not pleasant. In light of those facts, would all of you kindly raise your hands so that Usyk can become champion?
Even Usyk had nothing but nice things to say about Joshua.
He stated that the event in question was already in the past. “This battle is going to be replayed for multiple generations, particularly the round in which someone made a determined effort to knock me out. But I confronted it head-on and redirected it in a different direction.
In addition, Usyk was awarded the Ring Magazine belt for his victory. The only heavyweight title that Usyk does not currently hold is the WBC title, which will soon become vacant because Tyson Fury has announced his intention to retire from the sport.
In response to a question about Fury, Usyk stated, “I am convinced Tyson Fury has not yet retired.” I have no doubt that Tyson Fury is interested in a bout with me. If it’s not against Tyson Fury, I don’t want any part of it.”
It was decided in favour of Usyk by two judges, with one scoring it 115-113 and the other 116-112. Joshua won the bout by a score of 115 to 113, according to his opponent.
Joshua, a two-time heavyweight champion, suffered his third loss in 27 fights, and his career is currently at a critical juncture as a result.
It would appear that Fury will choose where Usyk goes from here on out.
Photographs that depict Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the event were shown on Saudi state television. Even though U.S. intelligence agencies believe he ordered the beheading and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the crown prince, who is 36 years old and the son of King Salman, has been pushing for sporting events to come to the kingdom. Jamal Khashoggi was a contributor to the Washington Post.