JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) — Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk won his rematch against Anthony Joshua by split decision in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to set up a potential unification bout with Britain’s Tyson Fury.
The former cruiserweight world champion, who dismantled the holder in London last year, faced an improved Joshua but outboxed him once again in just his fourth heavyweight bout.
Usyk, now unbeaten at 20-0, immediately called out Fury, who announced his latest retirement earlier this month but has signaled his willingness to resume his career.
Victory over the 6-foot-9 Fury would unite all four heavyweight belts and constitute a crowning glory for the sublime Ukrainian, a former outstanding amateur and Olympic heavyweight champion.
“I’m sure that Tyson Fury is not retired yet,” Usyk told the crowd. “I’m convinced he wants to fight me. I want to fight him. If I’m not fighting Tyson Fury I’m not fighting at all.”
The fight was watched on free-to-air TV by millions of Ukrainians living under the Russian invasion. Usyk signed up to fight for his country before accepting the rematch.
“I give this victory to my country, to my family, to my team and to all the military who are defending the country,” he told the 12,000-seat King Abdullah Sports City Arena in Jeddah.
An angered Joshua hurled down Usyk’s belts and peppered his post-fight speech with expletives despite the presence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, de facto ruler of the deeply religious country.
“I just spoke from my heart. It has been so tough,” Joshua said afterwards, adding: “It takes real strength and tonight there’s a little crack in the armor.”
The judges scored it 113-115, 115-113 and 116-112 for Usyk as Joshua narrowed the gap but was still found wanting.
“It was an incredible performance — he’s just too good,” Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn said.