Hail to the King – 5 things we learned
- Oleksandr Usyk is a genuine heavyweight – the new champ was only two fights into the heavier division after unifying the world cruiserweight titles in 2018 and swiftly moving up. There were doubts going into Saturday’s contest whether he could carry his 6ft 3′ frame into combat with a genuine heavyweight in Joshua, conceding 19lbs. The Ukrainian proved without doubt that he could and is strong at the weight. His elevation is reminiscent of Evander Holyfield in the late 1980’s and he can now also be considered the ‘Real Deal’.
- Anthony Joshua’s flaws re-surface again – This defeat was different to his devastating loss to Andy Ruiz in 2019. Against the Mexican-American he simply got nailed and ran out of gas. On Saturday thoroughout much of the fight he was thoroughly outboxed. The challenger exposed the limited boxing experience the Londoner had in comparison to Usyk’s amateur grounding and a lifetime in the sport. Joshua has achieved remarkable things given he took up the sport relatively late but his inability to maximise his size and power and continually follow Usyk around the ring showed he still has a lot to learn. To his credit he is the first to admit it and has already taken up the challenge.
- Ukraine know how to make heavyweights – Usyk is the third champion to emerge from the former Soviet state since the fall of communism. He succeeds the Klitchko brothers (Wladimir and Vitaly) and it begs the question how many fighters have been lost from our attention as a result of the behemoth that was the Soviet Union. The United States has always been known as the home of the heavyweight but for Ukraine, a long hidden nation within a bigger superpower, this is some achievement. Add double Olympic champion and former undisputed lightweight champ Vasiliy Lomachenko into the mix and you have one of boxing’s finest nations.
- The fight was better than the hype – After a week long build up and saturation coverage in the UK on Sky TV we expected the second coming of the ‘Thrilla in Manila’. Rarely do fights live up to the hype, but this was a riveting contest throughout. For a fight that featured no knockdowns and was largely dominated by the excellence of one boxer, it had you tuned in until the final bell. Congrats to both combatants in their bravery and willingness to provide entertainment to the 67,000 live crowd and also the class they showed in victory and defeat.
- Usyk can become the lineal champion – the new champ emphatically showed he belongs in the ‘pound for pound’ rankings for the sport. Going in, he was The Ring magazine’s #4 fighter in this mythical ranking of the best in the business. He will surely move up a few slots on this performance, but more specifically he is now a genuine threat to WBC ‘world’ champion Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury. The Brit has his own challenge to come through in two weeks – the trilogy fight against Deontay Wilder – no done deal. It has long been considered that Fury is the best pure boxer in the division and because of his size the man to beat, however Usyk will not be outboxed by Fury and now there is a genuine threat to the previously regarded ascendency to heavyweight coronation. It will be fascinating to see how it shakes down – enjoy the ride !