Anthony Joshua will demand an immediate rematch with Oleksandr Usyk after his reign as world heavyweight champion ended with a stunning unanimous points decision defeat on Sunday.
The shock result scuppered hopes of a ‘Battle of Britain’ unification bout with fellow world title-holder Tyson Fury.
Joshua ended the 12th and final round of the contest backed up on the ropes, with the cheers of a crowd of more than 62,000 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium no match for the skills of his challenger.
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The impressive Ukrainian triumphed 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113 on the scorecards of the three judges in just the former undisputed cruiserweight world champion’s third bout as a heavyweight.
His victory, which extended Usyk’s perfect record as a professional to 19 wins from as many fights, saw him become just the third boxer after Evander Holyfield of the United States and Britain’s David Haye to win both the cruiserweight and heavyweight world titles.
Joshua was taken to hospital after the fight, with promoter Eddie Hearn unsure if the Brit had suffered a broken eye socket.
There is a rematch clause, with Joshua — who has now won 24 and lost two of his professional bouts — having previously lost his belts when beaten by Andy Ruiz in New York in June 2019 only to regain in a rematch in Saudi Arabia six months later.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the fight, Hearn confirmed Joshua will trigger the clause after his “devastating” defeat.
“There are no complaints from AJ and he will go again,” Hearn said.
“He has been beaten by a pound for pound great fighter. We have been here before at Madison Square Garden. That was different and he has been beaten by the better man on the night. He will have to make some big changes in the rematch to avenge that defeat.”
“This is a devastating defeat. Usyk is very fit, he’s got great feet and he threw a lot of punches. He was probably a bit more aggressive than Joshua anticipated.
“Look, it was a tough defeat. He got beat by the better man on the night. It was always going to be difficult because Usyk’s confidence will be sky high.
“He [Joshua] will want to go straight back into the rematch. The desire is still there. He can do so much better in that fight.”
While so much of the focus is on what the result means for the Fury-Joshua megafight, it also proved just how much of a threat Usyk is.
“This means a lot for me. The fight went the way I expected it to go. There were moments when Anthony pushed me hard but it was nothing special,” Usyk said via a translator.
“I had no objective to knock him out because my corner pushed me not to do that. In the beginning, I tried to hit him hard, but then I stuck to my job.”
At 34, Usyk is three years older than Joshua and he was also giving away three inches in height as well as nearly 20lbs (nine kilogrammes) in weight.
It was also just Usyk’s third fight since stepping up from the cruiserweight division, where he dominated.
There were question marks though over whether he could be a force against the likes of Joshua and Fury.
In fact, Joshua hardly looked worried when Usyk defeated Derek Chisora last November on points.
Now Usyk has flipped the script on the heavyweight division and in the eyes of many, emerged as the pound-for-pound king.