Oleksandr Usyk edged out Anthony Joshua to retain his world titles after an enthralling rematch in Saudi Arabia.
Joshua, with new trainer Robert Garcia in his corner, produced a much-improved performance 11 months on from his defeat by the former undisputed cruiserweight world champion. But Usyk again proved to be too good as he was given the nod on two of the three scorecards.
Usyk dominated Joshua over 12 rounds in London. On that occasion, Joshua claimed he wanted to out-box his unbeaten rival only for his game plan to fall apart as he conceded the early rounds.
And it was Usyk who landed the first solid punch of the fight with a left hand to the chin as Joshua looked to work the champion’s body. He then responded to another left hand with a backhand of his own but it was the Ukrainian who made the better start.
Joshua punctuated the start of the second round with a right hand as he looked to take the initiative. He looked to drop down to the body but Usyk’s footwork continued to cause problems, as it did in their first meeting, as he landed flush with his lead right hand.
Usyk sensed an early finish with six minutes remaining but Joshua remained dangerous when he switched to the body. But the champion had seemingly limitless reserves of conditioning as he picked his punches to ensure he took a lead into the final round.