NINE years ago in London, in separate bouts at the ExCel arena, Anthony Joshua, at super-heavyweight, and Oleksandr Usyk at 91kgs both won Olympic gold medals. They moved on from London 2012, Joshua became a sporting star, rising to the top of the heavyweight division and picking up WBO, WBA and IBF belts. Meanwhile Usyk dominated the cruiserweight division, unifying every sanctioning body belt in that weight class and winning the World Boxing Super Series. He completed his masterful step up to heavyweight on Saturday night when he unanimously outscored Joshua at the Tottenham stadium.
“London is a really lucky city for me but not a single victory in professionals can be above the Olympic gold,” Usyk said. “This fight was the biggest fight in my career but it wasn’t the hardest.”
Usyk stung Joshua at times and hurt him badly on the ropes in the closing seconds of the contest. “The plan was just to walk in, to see, to start, so we went, we saw, we started. Then the 12th round they say put some speed on so I did,” the Ukrainian explained. “I tried a few times [to finish him] and I put my speed into it. I punched him a couple of times but then I was losing my rhythm. Then I was coming back to my corner and my trainer was saying you’re trying already to knock him down, you have to do your work. You have to throw your jab. Because if you concentrate on the knockout you’re going to lose your rhythm, you’re going to lose your work that you’re doing.”
Usyk is now a heavyweight star. Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder fight for the other sanctioning body belt, the WBC strap, on October 9 in Las Vegas. It would be fascinating to see Usyk box the winner of that but Anthony Joshua had a rematch clause in their contract and Usyk expects him to exercise it.
“I really love challenges, I love when someone calls me out [but Joshua] is a true warrior, he is a fighter. He will improve his skills,” Usyk said. “I would love to have the rematch in Olimpiyskiy stadium in Kiev.”
Usyk knew this was his time. But he also wants to return to normal life before focusing on his next fight. “The chance was given to me by God not by Anthony. He brought me here,” Usyk said. “I want to take all four belts. I want to take my kids to school. I want to plant trees. I want to water the apple trees. I want to see my wife more often. I spent three months in preparation camp, I wish I could spend more time with my wife. I want to live.”