The Ukrainian former cruiserweight king (now 19-0) delivered a dominant performance to win on the scorecards in front of 67,000 fans at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Usyk showed blurring hand speed, terrific stamina and elite movement and ringcraft to claim a unanimous decision by scores of 117-112, 116-112, 115-113.
Now Joshua (24-2) must again try to rebuild and win the world heavyweight title for a third time. And Usyk will wait for his chance to unify the belts against the winner of Fury vs Deontay Wilder 3 on October 9.
Usyk starts fast
Usyk came out for the first and set the tone immediately with a lovely left down the pipe which connected flush on Joshua’s jaw. The Ukrainian displayed blurring hand speed and was always on the move and creating new angles. Joshua did land a glancing right which just clipped Usyk, but the challenger came right back with another lovely left before the session ended.
The second saw Joshua trying to solve the puzzle presented by Usyk’s constant movement. The British man was trying to establish his jab, while Usyk landed another nice left and tried to mix in body shots. To this point Usyk though had produced nothing in terms of power to concern AJ.
Usyk enjoyed great success in the third, scoring early with a nice flurry and then stiffening AJ’s legs late in the session with a jarring left hand that connected flush. Joshua held on for a few seconds before trying to respond before the bell. AJ was really struggling at this stage to work out how to deal with the considerable challenge in front of him.
Joshua looked uncertain early in the fourth after that shock late in the third, but he started to gradually grow into the round and displayed good footwork to start to establish the jab. Usyk was still displaying bewildering footwork and movement – that preparation with 15 x four-minute round sessions with 30-second breaks paying handsome dividends.
Joshua shows signs of life
The fifth was a much better session for Joshua – his best so far – as he landed a couple of sweet rights late in the round. Usyk returned to his corner with a rye smile but must have known that things were about to get more challenging.
The tide continued to turn in the sixth and AJ produced a beautiful right to really let Usyk know he was here in a big way. Instead of controlling centre ring, Usyk was now on his bike as Joshua controlled the pace and started to back his opponent up. Usyk appeared to be slowing a little as we went into the second half of a fascinating bout.
Joshua’s growing momentum was halted in its tracks as Usyk then delivered a terrific seventh, not only showing terrific movement but also landing some super shots – notably a big left when sent AJ staggering back across the ring. The Ukrainian, for now, appeared to be back on top.
The eighth was a see-saw affair – AJ started the better as he controlled the ring and started to tee off with the right hand. Back came Usyk though with sustained flurries, before Joshua closed the session with some lovely body shots. How much impact would they have as the fight approached the championship rounds?
Usyk comes on strong…again
Usyk came out for the ninth and just amazed again with his stamina and movement as he upped the workrate to hold AJ at bay. On the one occasion he was pinned on the ropes he was smart enough to hold and live to fight another day. Joshua had blood coming from his nose while Usyk was marked under an eye.
The 10th was a cracking session and both men ended it with damage to their eyes. Joshua with swelling on his right side, and Usyk a cut above his right too. The Ukrainian wasn’t happy about it, but finished the round very much the stronger.
The champion began the penultimate session in determined style but Usyk just would not give best and he came back strong in the final minute, doubling up with that left hand as he came in and out. It looked now as though AJ needed a knockout to retain his titles and keep the dream of that Fury unification alive.
If the home fans had dreams of a grandstand finish from Joshua, they were sadly disappointed as Usyk surely clinched the titles with a brilliant final round. His blinding hand speed and flurrying shots had AJ on the ropes and in massive trouble during the final seconds.
Joshua somehow stayed on his feet but we went to the scorecards with the conensus at ringside that Usyk had indeed dethroned the champion in front of 67,000 fans in his own back yard.