By Mark Eisner: Unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (20-0, 13 KOs) overcame a spirited rally from former champ Anthony Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs) to defeat him by a 12 round split decision on Saturday night at the Jeddah Superdome in Saudi Arabia.
The scores were 115-113, 116-112 for Usyk, and 115-113 for Joshua. Boxing News 24 scored it for Usyk 9-3.
Joshua looked strong in rounds eight and nine, landing hard shots to the body and head. However, Usyk came back strong in the tenth to outwork Joshua by a wide margin.
In the 11th and 12th, Joshua looked gassed and unable to come up with the energy to pull out the decision.
- In a real war, Filip Hrgovic (15-0, 12 KOs) edged previously unbeaten Zhilei Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KOs) by a 12-round unanimous decision in an IBF heavyweight title eliminator. Zhang dropped the 2016 Olympic Hrgovic with a powerful counter right hand in the first round and dominated the first half of the contest. In the second half, Hrgovic rallied after the 39-year-old Zhang gassed out. The scores were 115-112, 115-112, and 114-113 for Hrgovic. Zhang had Hrgovic hurt multiple times in the fight from his hard shots. Hrgovic looked concussed in the championship rounds and the way he reacted when hurt seemed strange. It was as if he’d lost his senses completely and was walking around in a disoriented way. The fight appeared to be a draw, and it was hard to score it as a win for Hrgovic, given how many times he was hurt in the fight. On a side note: The ring was completely slippery from the emblem. Unless this problem is fixed before the main event, it could hamper one or booth fighters, particularly the better mover of the two, Oleksandr Usyk.
- Former WBA super middleweight champion Callum Smith (29-1, 21 KOs) stopped the game but limited Mathieu Bauderlique (21-2, 12 KOs) in the fourth round in a WBA 175-lb title eliminator. After three even rounds, Callum suddenly dropped Bauderlique with a counter left hook in the fourth. After Bauderlique got back up, Smith finished him off with a huge left to the head that put him down for the second time in the round. The referee then halted the contest. The time of the stoppage was at 1:53. With the victory, Callum is now the WBC mandatory to IBF/WBC/WBO light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev.
- Cruiserweight Badou Jack (27-3-3, 16 KOs) labored to an unimpressive 10-round split decision win over Richard Rivera (21-1, 16 KOs). It was a difficult fight to score, as it appeared that Rivera was getting the better of the action throughout the 10-round contest with his high-volume attack, but the judges gave more weight to the 38-year-old Badou’s harder shots. The judges’ scores were 96-94, 96-94 for Jack, and 96-94 for Rivera. The former two-division world champion Jack won his fifth consecutive victory since losing to Jean Pascal in 2019. Jack’s opposition has been on the poor side since the loss to Pascal, which explains why he’s still winning.
- Heavyweight Andrew Tabiti (20-1, 16 KOs) picked up his third consecutive win by stopping little-known James Wilson (7-1-1, 6 KOs) by a fifth-round stoppage. The 32-year-old Tabiti knocked Wilson down in the fifth round. After the round ended, the 35-year-old Wilson wisely chose not to come out for the sixth. Tabiti has looked good lately since losing to Yuniel Dorticos in 2019.
- Female super bantamweight Ramla Ali (7-0, 2 KOs) defeated an overmatched Crystal Garcia Nova (10-3, 10 KOs) by a first-round knockout. The contest was over 65 seconds of the first round.
Anthony Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) wants revenge for his loss to Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) last September in London.
AJ has hired a new trainer and comes in with a new game plan that is a throwback to how he used to fight earlier in his career before he met up with Wladimir Klitschko in 2017.
There’s a risk of Joshua emptying his gas tank in the first half of the fight, as he could fail in scoring a knockout and will be at the mercy of Usyk.
“As soon as he touches those ropes, AJ can let everything go. Body, head, everything,” said Eddie Hearn to talkSPORT.
Andrew Tabiti vs. James Wilson
Ben Whittaker vs. Petar Nosic
Daniel Lapin vs. Jozef Jurko
Rashed “Money Kicks” Belhasa vs. Traycho Georgiev
Filip Hrgovic vs. Zhilei Zhang
Callum Smith vs. Mathieu Bauderlique
Badou Jack vs. Richard Rivera
Ziyad Almaayouf vs. Jose Alatorre
Ramla Ali vs. Crystal Garcia Nova
“But he’s got to find a way to be the bigger man because if the fight takes place in the middle of the ring like it did last time, and Usyk just does his thing and doesn’t go anywhere near the ropes.
“He stays inside the smaller ring within the ring and boxes around in that circle. You can’t make him go backwards. You can’t make him hit the ropes and start defending.
“That’s when you have to rain the shots on him. The first four round are going to be important because if he doesn’t put a dent in Usyk in the first four rounds, the fight is going to start to be really difficult.
“I know he’s [Joshua] going to think about the 12 rounds and the tank and stuff like that. Empty the tank if need be because that might be the best opportunity to win this fight,” said Hearn.
Unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua will be headlining tonight in a rematch on DAZN PPV in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The card begins at 10:30 am ET. Later today, the main event between Joshua and Usyk will take place at around 5:30 pm ET.