Heavyweight hustler Oleksandr Usyk produced his best boxing trick by bamboozling Britain's hero Anthony Joshua
- Oleksandr Usyk is a slick pool shark dressed in a Batman villain's clothing, like the Joker.
- The heavyweight hustler convinced some in boxing that he had failed to adapt at heavyweight.
- But on Saturday, he dominated Anthony Joshua in one of the sport's great performances.
The Ukrainian had cleared out cruiserweight with such majesty that he has a legacy as one of the best to ever do it at 200-pounds, alongside Evander Holyfield.
Usyk moved up to the heavyweight division in 2019 but did not appear to replicate that style as effectively in his wins over Chazz Witherspoon and Dereck Chisora.
Doubts crept in. Though some believed he could outclass Anthony Joshua, the hulking 31-year-old champion was expected to handle his lighter challenger and play his part to set up an undisputed title fight with his compatriot Tyson Fury in one of the biggest bouts the sport could offer.
Many considered Usyk's slim chances because of his limited heavyweight experience. They even focused on his fashion choices when he dressed as a Batman villain at a press conference earlier this week. But behind the scenes, he was preparing for an all-time great performance.
The 34-year-old showed on Saturday, in front of 67,000 screaming fans at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London, that he had superior footwork, hand speed, shot selection, technical ability, agility, and fluidity in his fighting.
He had Joshua bamboozled with his jittery stance for many rounds, how he constantly probed around the ring and landed good right hooks, straight rights, and left hands.
-DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) September 25, 2021
Joshua gave Usyk moments to think about, particularly with a powerful straight right hand - a useful shot when facing a southpaw opponent.
But, according to Compubox data sent to Insider, Joshua only out-landed Usyk in three of the 12 rounds of the fight, and Insider scored the contest eight rounds to four in Usyk's favor.
Usyk built a commanding lead in the first four rounds of the fight, with Joshua's best work arriving in the fifth and sixth rounds. With a roaring crowd behind him, over-cheering the sporadic heavy hits he'd land, momentum could have switched permanently against lesser challengers.
But Usyk has proven himself once again to be a generational talent, as he rallied from rounds nine onwards, raising his standards to a level Joshua had never seen before in his 26 professional fights.
-DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) September 25, 2021
Usyk closed the show like a champion by limiting Joshua's effectiveness while hammering him with 29 of his 68 shots (42%) in the final round.
Usyk said after the match that he could have pressed for the finish but obliged his trainers, who advised from his corner to stick to the game plan and secure the decision win.
-Al Dawson (@AlanDawsonSport) September 25, 2021
-DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) September 26, 2021
It was a masterclass in boxing and a victory for the sport - particularly after a Triller-branded abomination earlier this month. David Haye and Joe Fournier took part in what looked like a choreographed sham. Holyfield was brought into the ring aged 58 to be bowled over by the 44-year-old former MMA champion Vitor Belfort.
Triller's event represented the worst of boxing.
But, on Saturday, for any outsiders looking in, they'd have seen the best.
Crowds of supporters flew British, Nigerian, and Ukrainian flags on north London's streets as they walked into the stadium ahead of the bout.
Caribbean pop-ups called Jerk 'N Ting supplied food, happy people blasted feel-good music out of stationary cars, and everyone just wanted to see an elite fight.
The country had been hit with pandemic-enforced lockdowns never seen before, but COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in the UK, and the atmosphere around the ground was a carnival vibe, with little to no trouble.
As those fight fans made their way into the arena, they produced a raucous, beer-fueled din. But they were quickly silenced when Usyk was doing his thing in the ring.
Sat on press row, Insider was so beguiled by the show that even in the final round, we'd have been as enthusiastic and ready for another 12.
Boxing, as a spectacle, rarely gets better than this.
And as Joshua has a right to invoke a rematch clause, we will likely get to see it all over again.
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