IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (20-0, 13 KOs) put on a boxing clinic, defeating Anthony Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs) by a close 12-round split decision in front of a relatively quiet crowd on Saturday night in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,
Joshua immediately fell behind in the fight in the early going and got outboxed until he turned to dirty tactics in the eighth round. AJ fought well in the ninth, landing a nice illegal hammer fist, hitting on the break, and throwing low blows. However, it was too little too late for AJ,
Usyk came back strong to control rounds 10, 11, and 12 after Joshua gassed out.
The scores were:
- 115-113 Usyk
- 116-112 Usyk
- 115-113 Joshua
Filip Hrgovic (15-0, 12 KOs) had to dig deep to rally to defeat the heavy-handed two-time Olympian Zhilei Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KOs) by a 12 round split decision in an IBF heavyweight title eliminator bout.
Looking concussed during most of the second half of the fight, Hrgovic outworked a badly fatigued 39-year-old Zhang during the championship rounds to take the decision by the scores 115-112, 115-112, and 114-113.
Zhang knocked Hrgovic down with a hard right hand in the first round and continued to hurt him throughout the fight. With the win, Hrgovic is now in a position to challenge for the world title against tonight’s rematch between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk.
Callum Smith (29-1, 21 KOs) locked himself in as the WBC mandatory for light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev by stopping Mathieu Bauderlique (21-2, 12 KOs) in the fourth round in a WBC 175-lb title eliminator. Smith dropped Bauderlique twice in the fourth round with booming left hooks to get the stoppage. The referee halted the contest at 1:53 of round four.
Former two-division world champion Badou Jack (27-3-3, 16 KOs) won a questionable 10-round split decision over Richard ‘Popeye the Sailor” Rivera (21-1, 16 KOs) in cruiserweight action. The scores were 96-94, 96-94 for Jack, and 96-94 for Rivera. Jack looked like he got the worst of it, but the judges still gave him the win.
Heavyweight Andrew Tabiti (20-1, 16 KOs) looked superb tonight, wearing down & stopping an overmatched previously undefeated James Wilson (7-1-1, 6 KOs) in the fifth round. Tabiti 32, knocked Wilson down in the fifth Instead of coming out for the sixth, Wilson stayed on his stool.
It was a good victory for the 32-year-old Tabiti but obviously needs to start stepping it up in terms of competition because he’s a little old to be fighting prospects at this stage in his career.
Female super bantamweight Ramla Ali (7-0, 2 KOs) blasted out Crystal Garcia Nova (10-3, 10 KOs) by a lightning-quick first-round knockout.
Tonight is Anthony Joshua’s D-day, considering he needs a victory over unified heavyweight champion Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) to not only punch his ticket for a lucrative bash against WBC champion Tyson Fury for the undisputed but also to keep his career afloat.
“If you worry about pleasing people and getting respect from people, it’s going to lead to a pretty sad life,” said Eddie Hearn to talkSPORT. “You’re never going to be happy because no one is ever going to be happy.
“I think he’s matured to a space where he’s doing it for himself, and I think he’s felt over the years where people have gone against him or started not supporting him, and some people can be quite fickle. I can’t be trying to please everyone all the time.
“We wouldn’t be here without Anthony Joshua. All these people are investing money due to the growth of British boxing that basically was ignited by Anthony Joshua.
“The stadium shows, the big pay-per-view numbers, the world heavyweight championship. All of this stuff stems from him. Some people feel he’s manufactured, but if you have a brain and look at his resume.
“My dad used to promote Chris Eubank. They went around on the Chris Eubank world tour fighting people who I cannot believe were getting in the ring with Chris Eubank and fighting for world titles.
“When you’re as big as he is, you’re allowed some gimmes. He’s not had the gimmes because all those earlier fights, even Charles Martin; he was 16-0 fighting a 33-0 guy with 31 knockouts that no one really knew a lot about. He never shirked a challenge.
“You know how many people came up to me after the first Oleksandr Usyk fight and said, ‘You should have vacated.’ I’m like, ‘Duck Usyk. Imagine the stick he’d get then,” said Hearn.
Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk will be back in action tonight for their long-awaited rematch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The fight will be shown on DAZN pay-per-view at a start time at around 5:30 p.m. ET.