Joshua rages after losing world heavyweight title fight against Usyk in Saudi Arabia

Former champion launches tirade in ring after Ukrainian retains his titles on split decision in thrilling rematch

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Anthony Joshua fell to an agonising split decision defeat by Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia to leave him facing an uncertain future in the heavyweight division he previously ruled.

Usyk edged a thrilling contest 113-115, 115-113, 116-112 at the King Abdullah Sports Centre Arena in Jeddah to complete a second successive victory over Joshua and retain the WBA, IBF and WBO titles.

The all-out assault many were calling for never materialised, but Joshua’s performance was far superior to that passive night at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium almost a year ago when Joshua surrendered the belts in such disappointing fashion.

Joshua angrily stormed out of the ring after the fight, before returning to rant at Usyk: “Skills win boxing, you’re not strong, how did you beat me? I had character!"

Joshua then grabbed the microphone and addressed the crowd, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“I am giving you my story,” the Briton said. “I was going to jail. I got bailed and started training, because if I got sentenced then I would not have been able to fight.

“I could have done better, but it showed the hard work he must have put in to beat me. Please give him a round of applause as our heavyweight champion of the world.

“I’m not a 12-round fighter. I am a new breed of heavyweight, Mike Tyson, Sonny Liston – they say ‘he doesn’t throw combinations like Rocky Marciano,’ because I am 18 stone, I am heavy.

“It is hard work. This guy here is a phenomenal talent. We are going to cheer for him.”

The 35-year-old Usyk kept his belts six months after serving in the Ukrainian army as part of the country’s defence against Russia’s invasion.

Both boxers looked exhausted at the final bell. Usyk fell to the canvas and looked to the sky and was soon joined there by Joshua, who embraced his opponent and appeared to offer his help to the plight of Ukraine.

Fury-Usyk on the cards

There’s now only one heavyweight title that Usyk doesn’t own — the WBC one that was vacated this year by Tyson Fury, who had said he was retired.

When asked about Fury, Usyk said: “I am sure Tyson Fury is not retired yet. I am sure Tyson Fury wants to fight me. If I’m not fighting Tyson Fury, I’m not fighting at all."

Happily for Usyk it appears Tyson Fury is keen on the fight too and eager to rescind his retirement status - albeit for an astronomical sum.

The so-called Gypsy King took to social media within an hour of the final bell to launch broadsides at both Usyk and Joshua.

: “After watching that, the both of them were s***e.

“It was one of the worst heavyweight title fights I have ever seen.

“It was bulls***. Come on!

“I annihilate both of them on the same night.

“F***ing s***e.

“Get your f***ing cheque book out, because the Gypsy King is here to stay, forever!”

Tyson Fury has raised the prospect of a mouth-watering fight with Usyk. AFP

Usyk-Fury is a tantalising prospect for the world of boxing, but where Joshua now fits into the equation is open to debate.

The 6ft 6ins (1.98m) two-time world champion, is left staring at an impasse in his career after his third defeat in his 12th straight title fight left him with figures of 24-3-0.

Joshua, accused of hesitancy in their first fight in London, was the early aggressor by round two as he repeatedly landed his big right hand.

A heavy right hook stung Usyk in round three and Joshua was continuing to find the jab as the Ukrainian's busy footwork opened up gaps.

A low blow from Joshua left Usyk wincing in the fifth and another backed him on to the ropes in the sixth but the tricky southpaw came firing back with some lightning combinations.

A flurry to the body put Usyk back on the ropes in the eighth and Joshua had the Ukrainian hanging on in the ninth after a right-left hook combination as the fight came alive.

But Usyk came storming back after the bell with a succession of clean shots as Joshua took some serious punishment despite landing a massive right of his own.

The mesmerising Usyk increased his control in the closing stages, slipping punches and landing quick combinations as Joshua searched in vain for the knock-down.

Ukraine's Oleksandr Usyk celebrates after beating Britain's Anthony Joshua. AP

"I want to thank God for the help that he gave me today. I give this victory to my country, to my family, to my team and to all the military who are defending the country," he said after the victory.

On the contest with Joshua, Usyk added: “This is already history.

“Many generations are going to watch this fight, especially the round where someone tried to beat me hard, but I withstood it and turned in a different way. Thanks to God.”

Updated: August 21, 2022, 12:39 AM