JEFF POWELL: Rematch? On this showing, Anthony Joshua would have NO chance… Ukrainian genius Oleksandr Usyk is far too slick for the British fighter
- Anthony Joshua is left picking through the rubble of a second shocking loss
- His contract will give him the chance to recover his WBA, WBO and IBF titles
- It is almost impossible to conceive a way for him to reverse unanimous decision
Wherever the rematch takes place — be it in London, Kiev or Ibiza, to which the new world heavyweight champion jocularly referred — it is almost impossible to conceive a way for Anthony Joshua to reverse the unanimous decision by which Oleksandr Usyk restored the noble art to boxing.
The Ukrainian genius painted a masterpiece on the canvas of the prize ring, reducing Joshua to a pale imitation of his former self and throwing the hardest game into dazzling confusion.
Whither now the £200million extravaganza with Tyson Fury?
Oleksandr Usyk (right) reduced Anthony Joshua to a pale imitation of his former self
Joshua is left picking through the rubble of a second shocking loss of his collection of belts, while the Gypsy King’s connections are beginning to turn their attention to fighting Usyk not AJ for the undisputed heavyweight crown.
Whatever the outcome of Fury’s trilogy title match with Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas in a fortnight, Joshua would be wiser pitching for the money against Fury next — with or without the belts — than lumbering back into Usyk’s line of rapid fire.
But his contract dictates he be given a chance to recover his WBA, WBO and IBF collection of titles and regain his pride even though humiliation is rarely the father of redemption.
High risk is inherent in immediate rematches but the confidence-rebuilding rehab of interim fights is not in the competitive nature of Joshua, who said: ‘I see this defeat as a blessed opportunity to become a three-time world heavyweight champion.’
The Ukrainian genius painted a masterpiece on the canvas of the prize ring on Saturday night
Blessed? Or as delusional as the calculation within his camp that he was beating Usyk until his vision was impaired by an eye injury in the ninth round?
So comprehensively was he outboxed from start to finish of a fight which silenced the vast AJ majority in the 67,000 crowd that the official scoring of Usyk’s triumph still did him less than justice.
Said the judges: 117-112, 116-112, 115-113. Say I: 118-112.
The prospects of that verdict being overturned when they meet again would have been described thus by legendary promoter Don King: ‘Slim or none and Slim’s left town.’
Joshua’s contract dictates he be given a chance to recover his WBA, WBO and IBF titles
A more slender-than-usual Joshua was mesmerised in his home town by lightning hand speed, brilliant positioning and nimble footwork, the like of which he has not encountered previously in a heavyweight.
But then it was by these attributes that Usyk had become the first undisputed cruiserweight champion of the four-belt era. Against this technocrat’s armoury of intelligence and agility, Joshua’s size, height, weight, strength and power were blunt tools. Joshua commits himself to ‘learning all the lessons of this night and practising ceaselessly to make the adjustments and improvements by which I will beat him next time’.
In all honesty, the intervening six months look nothing like enough for him to absorb this university education. When he added, ‘I’d only be sulking if this was the end for me’, he sounded remarkably accepting of being knocked off the summit of boxing’s Everest.
A more troubling reality was him barely surviving Usyk’s last-round onslaught, then slumping, exhausted, into his corner with neither the energy nor belief to make any mock pretence at victory celebration. If it wasn’t the beginning of the end, I’m afraid it looked like it in the final minutes as he reeled against the ropes on the brink of being knocked out, which probably would have happened but for Usyk’s tactical decision to hold back.
Joshua lost his three heavyweight belts after losing to Usyk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
The winner explained: ‘I wanted to go for the stoppage but my corner told me to concentrate on maintaining my rhythm.’
Any Joshua complacency with his golden public status will not rescue him from Usyk’s skills, appetite for challenges and hunger to claim the title of the best pound-for-pound fighter on earth. After this, he must rank second only to Canelo Alvarez.
The harshest lesson Joshua must learn is to play to his strengths. It is too late to make dramatic progress as a skilful boxer. His only hope is a barnstorming onslaught which would have given him some sort of shot at Usyk. To throw caution to the night winds, go in with all punches blazing, let the chips fall where they will as he strives for the one big blow which he could not deliver on Saturday.
Even if that failed, he would feel better for trying than he did fiddling around the edges of defeat, looking gun-shy after that first career setback when he was knocked out by Andy Ruiz Jnr.
Now Usyk wants their rematch to be held at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium in his native Ukraine
Fury kept a cap on the gloating by simply tweeting: ‘And STILL the best heavyweight on the planet.’ It would be most intriguing finding out if he bypassed Joshua and went for all the titles against Usyk. Given Fury’s own athletic agilty, this would be a very different fight. And why not a Joshua rematch in Kiev? Promoter Eddie Hearn says: ‘Probably not, as we will be looking for the best financial arrangement for both and the UK is beneficial to AJ.’
Usyk says: ‘I have made enough money for the rest of my family’s life. And I have been working hard towards a very big fight in my country.’
He deserves nothing less after travelling the world to attain supremacy at cruiserweight and now in joining only Evander Holyfield and David Haye in coming up from that division to win a heavyweight title.
And his own people have the right to see their maestro work his magic, at which even the Joshua faithful could not help marvelling.
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