Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk put on a stunning display to give world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua a unanimous defeat in front of a crowd at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
The 34-year-old former cruiserweight world champion put up a master class to silence the vast majority of the 67,000 fans, who thronged the massive arena.
Usyk, who gave height, weight and access to the champ, proved too elusive for Joshua during a captivating competition and landed on the cleanest shots, finishing off a delight in round 12 while looking for a knockout.
Joshua stayed straight but the decision was a formality as Usyk took the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts as the three judges scored 117-112, 116-112, and 115-113.
Former Olympic champion Usyk, who is fighting only his third professional heavyweight fight, is following in the footsteps of compatriots Vladimir and Vitali Klitschko, who dominated the league for ten years from 2004 to 2015.
He is only the third world cruiserweight champion to rise from his weight and become the World Heavyweight Champion after Evander Holyfield and David Haye.
For Joshua, the second career defeat was a crushing blow and dashed hopes of a unification encounter with fellow British WBC holder Tyson Fury, who faces American Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas on October 9.
Even Joshua’s most ardent fan had to admit that their man was tutored by a skilled craftsman, who rarely looked confused even when he got a cut above his eye of late.
Joshua gave the crowd little to cheer and ran out of ideas against his Southpaw opponent who was ahead the whole time.
“It means a lot to me,” Usek told Sky Sports. “The fight went the way I expected. There were moments when Anthony pushed me really hard but it wasn’t anything special.”
“I had no aim to bring him down because my angle made me not do it. At first, I tried to hit him hard but then I stuck with my job.”
A spirited atmosphere greeted the fighters as they walked the long distance to the ring, with the crowd in full screams and a rush of fireworks in the sky.
But since the first bell, Joshua seemed unsure whether to try to outsmart his opponent or knock him out—failing miserably on both.
A nervous silence reigned on the court in the opening rounds as Usek’s threat became all the more apparent.
Constantly in motion, Joshua shook on the third with a strong left hand.
Usyk held onto control in the following rounds as Joshua failed to unleash his supposed superior strength and the Londoner was in big trouble again in the seventh round as he was sent spectacularly backwards by a large left hook.
Nick appeared over Usik’s eye in round 10 but Joshua’s face was showing signs of battle damage.
Joshua needed a knockout to hold his belt, but Usyk came closest to a fierce attack at the end of the 12th that left the Briton reeling.
Even before the official result was announced, some of Joshua’s fans were heading to the exits while Usek’s followers were just starting the party.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn said his fighter was “devastated” by the defeat, adding that he would go to the hospital with suspected broken eye.
“Congratulations to Oleksandr Usyk. What a fighter. He put in a great performance and the best man won,” said Hearn.
“She got reasonably close on the eighth and then Ussek ran away with her.”
Joshua later took to Twitter, saying, “Keep up positive even if the world collapses in front of you! London I love you and thank you every time!”