Round-by-round verdict as Oleksandr Usyk retains his world championship belts
The two-time world champion produced a significant improvement on his display 11 months ago at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but fell just short in Saudi Arabia as Usyk secured a split-decision victory to confirm his place among the very best heavyweights currently in the game.
Here Telegraph Sport judges the bout and explains where Joshua let the fight slip out of his grasp.
Excellent start from Joshua who closes the distance against the agile footwork already at play by Usyk, both fighters feeling each other out with feints and head movement. No recklessness from Joshua, but advancing on Usyk, his guard high. Left from Usyk, and a jab from Joshua gets through the guard, but Usyk lands marginally more in the opening exchanges.
Usyk 10-9 Joshua
With Joshua clearly targeting Usyk’s body, Usyk employs the jab skillfully, moving and fencing, though the challenger does land a right hand to the champion’s body. The body attacks from Joshua win him the round.
Usyk 19-19 Joshua
Always moving, always working, Usyk is into his rhythm, but the protagonists exchange body shots. Big right hand from Joshua, who is maintaining his focus of staying close while taking the centre of the ring. Better work from Joshua.
Usyk 28-29 Joshua
The game plan is working for Joshua, and he looks confident, extending his jab against the ever-moving ‘Dancing Cat’. Usyk lands a body shot and Joshua throws an uppercut which whizzes past the champion. Then a right hand from Joshua, followed by a combination of punches late in the round, though Usyk responds with a lovely left hand.
Usyk 37-39 Joshua
Joshua attacks Usyk, still elusive, with a body shot, the Ukrainian limping away claiming it was a low blow. It was indeed. Referee Luis Pabon stops the fight and gives Usyk time to recover. Joshua goes straight to the body again with a right, but the champion has recovered and is back dancing.
Usyk 47-48 Joshua
Hard right from Joshua pressing the action with Usyk on the ropes but the Ukrainian counters with a hook and uses his footwork to free himself from the pressure. Much closer fight than the first meeting 11 months ago, Joshua is enjoying far more success, but needs to press his foe harder. 3-3 in rounds at the midway stage.
Usyk 57-57 Joshua
Usyk is now in cruise control showing all his footwork and elusiveness, jabbing his way through the round and creating angles for his punches to land, notably his left hand. Majestic three minutes from the champion, his best round of the fight, ending it with a telling (right) hook.
Usyk 67-66 Joshua
The centre of the canvas is drenched in perspiration at the start of the round, the action halted for it to be dried, both fighters slipping. Joshua is encouraged by a right uppercut body shot but Usyk takes it and counters. Joshua begins a series of punches to the body of the champion to take the round.
Usyk 76-76 Joshua
Huge round for Joshua, seemingly going for broke and putting all the pressure he can muster in this stanza, unleashing combinations on the ropes as Usyk ties up and holds. By a long way Joshua’s best round, as he attempts to finish the Ukrainian, but the champion survives. Joshua’s corner urges him to follow up.
Usyk 85-86 Joshua
Usyk, being Usyk, shakes off the assault of the last round and bounces back with vim and vigour, firing off combinations as Joshua seems to be close to fatigue with his legs tiring – and in trouble. But Joshua lands a huge right hand and Usyk is rocked. But the champion then takes control again with several punches as Joshua begins to falter. Champion in ascendancy.
Usyk 95-95 Joshua
Joshua needs to drive home in the championship rounds and lands a body shot, but Usyk is back to that brilliant movement, showing his skills and landing single- and three-punch combinations to win the round clean against a very fatigued challenger.
Usyk 105-104 Joshua
Needing a knockdown to win, Joshua must attack and lands a left hook, right hand as Usyk holds, but as they tie up, they tumble together with Joshua exhausted. The ever crafty ring general Usyk knows his plan now: he moves in and out of range, landing with shots to catch the eye of the judges to take the round clearly.
Usyk 115-113 Joshua