By: Sean Crose
Three of the four major world heavyweight title belts were at stake Saturday as Oleksandr Usyk slipped inside the ring in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to face Anthony Joshua, the man he had won those belts from nearly a year earlier. Marketed as “Rage on the Red Sea,” the scheduled 12 round battle was unquestionably one of the most relevant matches of 2022, perhaps even the single most relevant. The 24-2 Joshua was looking to become a three time world heavyweight champion while the 19-0 Usyk was representing his war torn homeland of Ukraine.
The opening round saw a more mobile Joshua than the world saw in his first match with Usyk, though defending champion Usyk was able to land at times. The second was an interesting affair. Both men were able to find homes for their intended shots – to Joshua’s head and Usyk’s body respectively – yet Joshua’s movement was perhaps making him a harder target than he had been in the first fight. Things began heating up in the third, with each man landing effectively. The fourth round was exciting. Usyk was picking up the pace, employing impressive footwork and landing clean while Joshua landed strong shots of his own – especially to Usyk’s body.
By the fifth, it looked like the edge might be going to Usyk, as Joshua wasn’t moving as much as he had been. Perhaps even more telling was the fact Joshua’s shots didn’t seem to have that much of an impact on the Ukrainian. With that being said, Joshua had a far more active and energetic sixth. Joshua’s movement had returned by the seventh, a round he may well have taken on the judge’s cards. The eighth was close and exciting, with each man landing good shots. Joshua had his man on the ropes while Usyk came back and landed crisply to Joshua’s head towards the end of the round.
Joshua had a huge ninth, clearly hurting Usyk. He seemed close to taking his man down, though Usyk remained on his feet. Still, it might have been a turning point as it showed Joshua had the power to rattle the defending titlist. The tenth, however, was Usyk’s big round, as he pounded away at Joshua. Joshua landed hard himself on a few occasions, but it was Usyk who rocked his man regularly throughout the chapter. Joshua landed some harmful seeming body shots in the eleventh, but Usyk controlled the round with clean, cracking punches that landed on a regular basis. Each fighter landed thunderous shots in the twelfth and final round.
Usyk walked out of the ring with a split decision victory ( 115-113, 116-112 & 113-115) and his belts still in his possession.
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