LONDON — Oleksandr Usyk shook up the heavyweight division to become a two-weight world champion with a stunning win over Anthony Joshua for the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight world titles Saturday.
Usyk, of the Ukraine, dominated much of the fight, rocking Joshua in the third round and the seventh round, and won by the judges’ scores of 117-112, 116-112, 115-113. Usyk improves to 19-0 (13 KOs) while Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) tasted his second defeat and first in London in his career, in front of a 68,000 home crowd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Joshua, the naturally bigger man who has lost the titles for a second time in two years, is now counting the considerable cost of another shock defeat which ends his hopes of fighting English rival Tyson Fury for all four major heavyweight titles next year.
WBC champion Fury defends his title in a third fight with Deontay Wilder on Oct. 9, but the winner of that fight is now likely to pursue a clash with Usyk, who won the titles in just his third fight at heavyweight after unifying all four world titles at cruiserweight.
Most of the world heavyweight title belts are now back in Ukrainian hands with Usyk’s success, after Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko brothers dominated the division while reigning as champions from 2004 to 2015, including one period when they held all four belts between them.
More to come …
Round-by-round analysis by Mike Coppinger:
Round 12: What a finish to a terrific fight! Usyk ends the fight with a barrage of power shots that sent Joshua to the ropes on unsteady legs. Usyk wanted that KO! But he still should get the decision unless he’s robbed. 10-9, Usyk. 118-110, Usyk.
Round 11: This has been an absolute boxing lesson from Usyk. Joshua a step slower every time. AJ pushing for KO now, firing big rights, but Usyk’s head movement is too good; his feet too fast. Joshua needs the KO now as Usyk pushes for it, too. 10-9, Usyk. 108-101, Usyk.
Round 10: Close round, but Usyk continues to land the bigger shots, a surprise considering he’s the smaller man. Usyk now cut cover the right eye and blood is pouring in. Joshua’s right eye about swollen shut as we enter the championship rounds. 10-9, Usyk. 98-92, Usyk.
Round 9: Usyk fired a couple of lefts that connected but almost landed big. Both boxers are tired now, someone needs to find his second wind. But Usyk remains in control as we creep closer to the end. 10-9, Usyk. 88-83, Usyk.
Round 8: Usyk able to stay away from those big Joshua power shots. AJ getting desperate now. Usyk continues to circle and circle and then jump in with those double jabs. Joshua needs to land something big and soon. 10-9, Usyk. 78-74, Usyk.
Round 7: Usyk with a massive round! He found his rhythm again and connected on a bevy of big left hands set up by the jab. Joshua looks rattled again. Usyk needs to keep it up now. 10-9, Usyk. 68-65, Usyk.
Round 6: Big round for AJ! He connected on two massive right hands, but Usyk, the smaller man, took them well. AJ now brimming with confidence. Can Usyk find an answer? 10-9, Joshua. 58-56, Usyk.
Round 5: By far AJ’s best round of the fight. Finally, he rolls forward and pushed Usyk back. Joshua landed some crisp body shots there and wins the round. 10-9, Joshua. 49-46, Usyk.
Round 4: Much closer round, but Usyk continues to beat Joshua to the punch. He’s so much faster and the different angles are giving Joshua fits. AJ needs to find a way to make this an inside fight. 4-0, Usyk. 40-36, Usyk.
Round 3: Usyk rocks Joshua with a overhand left late in the round. Usyk in total control right now. Joshua is totally confused and befuddled. 10-9, Usyk. 30-27, Usyk.
Round 2: Usyk applying nonstop pressure and it’s clearly the right strategy. Lots of feints from both men. High-speed chess match so far. Joshua, despite being the bigger man, not able to assert himself. No inside fighting yet. No leaning from AJ. 10-9, Usyk. 20-18, Usyk.
Round 1: Strong star from Oleksandr Usyk, who wisely applies pressure and refuses to let Anthony Joshua push him back. Usyk landed a couple of effective straight left hands and his footwork is clearly going to trouble Joshua. 10-9, Usyk.
Okolie retains WBO title with KO win over Prasovic
Lawrence Okolie swept aside Dilan Prasovic in three rounds to defend his WBO cruiserweight world title for the first time.
Okolie, 28, who calls himself “The Sauce,” won the belt with an impressive six-round demolition of Krzysztof Glowacki in March, but this was a much easier task.
Okolie (17-0, 14 KOs), a 2016 Olympian from London, took a round to look at Prasovic and then started loading with more intent in the second round.
It did not take him long to catch up with Prasovic, who went down for a count after a delayed reaction from a right hand.
Prasovic (15-1, 12 KOs), 26, from Montenegro, battled on but had to absorb another right hand to the top of the head before the end of the second round. Prasovic could not resist much longer, and he was sent lurching across the ring after being hurt by a crushing left from Okolie to the body. Prasovic was left exposed during a clinch, and Okolie picked his spot perfectly. He failed to beat the count and the fight was stopped after 1 minute and 57 seconds of the third round, leaving Okolie hoping for a more significant and harder test in his next outing.
Hatton gets friendly decision against a game Martinez
Campbell Hatton chalked up his fourth professional win via a six-round points decision (58-57) over Sonny Martinez in a lightweight contest, but it was a close fight with nervous moments for the English prospect.
Hatton (4-0, 0 KOs), 20, from Manchester, is the son of former two-division world champion Ricky Hatton, who used to pack venues on both sides of the Atlantic.
The stadium was still filling up when Hatton climbed through the ropes as one of the early fights on the bill. Hatton could not produce a knockout finish to please the crowd, and at times they were left concerned by the amount of time Hatton was caught by Martinez’s uppercuts.
Martinez (2-5, 0 KOs), 29, from Uruguay but based in Spain, got through with some punches late in the first round and then made it difficult for Hatton to land clean blows. Hatton landed a good right hand to the chin toward the end of the third round but Martinez was able to land more shots in the fourth.
Hatton initially had success with some right hands in the fifth, but late in the round he was again caught by a series of punches from Martinez including two right uppercuts. Hatton got drawn in to a messy tear-up in the final round, and again took too many punches. Even though he leaves Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with a victory, the fight did not at all go as planned.
“I’m not happy with that performance at all, but on with the next,” Hatton said after.
Smith scores KO of the year candidate against Castillo
Former WBC super middleweight world champion Callum Smith made a winning return with a devastating second-round knockout of Lenin Castillo.
After losing his title to Canelo Alvarez by unanimous decision in December 2020, Smith stepped up a division in a bid to become a two-weight world champion.
Smith made quite a statement, laying out Castillo flat on his back from a right hand. Castillo’s legs were left twitching by the right punch and he required medical treatment for several minutes before being carried out of the ring on a stretcher.
Smith (28-1, 20 KOs), 31, from Liverpool, who made two super middleweight title defenses, is hoping to land a 175-pound title shot next year.
Castillo (21-4-1, 16 KOs), 33, from the Dominican Republic, took Dmitry Bivol the distance in a unanimous decision loss for the WBA light heavyweight world title in October 2019 but was quickly in trouble against Smith.
Marku edges Prodan for split decision win
Florian Marku claimed his biggest career win as he jabbed his way to a split decision victory over Maxim Prodan in a welterweight contest.
Marku won by scores 97-93, 96-94, with the third judge scoring it 99-91 to Prodan. Overall, it was a disciplined performance for Marku in the second fight on the card.
Ukraine-born, Italy-based Prodan (19-1-1, 15 KOs), 28, was slow to get going, and in the last round Marku felt so confident he would get the decision, that he was raising in hands in celebration.
London-based Marku (9-0-1, 6 KOs), 28, who was born in Albania, got a lot of support from the early arrivals at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and he looked as though he had scored a third-round knockdown when Prodan was left sitting on the canvas. Fortunately for Prodan, it was judged to have been a slip.
Marku’s jab allowed him to control the early rounds, and he appeared so relaxed that he crossed his legs while sitting on his stool in between rounds.
Prodan, who clashed with Marku at the weigh-in on Friday, landed a flurry of blows at the start of the sixth and had more success late in the round despite Marku raising his hands insisting he was not hurt.
Prodan was the busier man in the later rounds, including the last round, but it was only enough to convince one of the three judges. The result won Marku a regional welterweight title.
Ousley outpoints Baysangurov
Christopher Ousley enjoyed a comfortable 10-round majority decision win over Khasan Baysangurov to edge closer to world middleweight title contention.
The Chicago-based boxer finished Round 4 well and came out swinging with hooks in the fifth round.
Baysangurov (21-2, 11), 24, of Samashki, Russia, remained aggressive throughout, but Ousley’s smart boxing saw him pick off his opponent. Ousley (12-0, 9 KOs), 30, saw his last fight end in a no-contest after he was judged to have landed a low blow against Sergio Acosta Osuna in May. He sunk to his knees in ecstasy when he heard the scores of 95-95, 97-94, 97-94 Saturday night.
Baysangurov was beaten for the first time since Rob Brant stopped him in the 11th round for the WBA middleweight title in February 2019.