The Road to Undisputed is all but closed off for ANTHONY JOSHUA after the unified champion fell down a sizable pothole on Saturday night. Headlining in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, OLEKSANDR USYK dominated for portions of the fight to remain unbeaten and take possession of the IBF, WBO and WBA titles.
Establishing his assets right from the opening bell, Usyk’s early success with the snappy left cross and crisp hand speed made Joshua reluctant to engage on even terms. The 34-year-old challenger’s constant movement meant Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) was unable to set his feet for any extended period.
The Watford man narrowed the gap in the middle rounds, and many expected him to start taking over as Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) inevitably tired. The Ukrainian had other ideas, however, and stuck to his gameplan, feinting, and poking away with the right hook and straight left.
Joshua’s success was short-lived as Usyk continued delivering his fierce pace rather than fading. The stabbing lefts to Joshua’s stomach took a toll and Oleksandr closed out strong down the stretch to take a thoroughly deserved unanimous decision.
Promoter Eddie Hearn later described his man’s second professional setback as a devastating defeat. He’s correct. Even though Joshua, 31, lost to Andy Ruiz Jr he was able to defeat the rotund puncher in their rematch and re-calibrate his career.
A proud fighter, Joshua would likely accept the Usyk rematch, but it is difficult to see what he would be able to do differently to turn the tide against a fighter at his peak.
Topping off a weak undercard, Hackney heavy hitter LAWRENCE OKOLIE retained his WBO cruiserweight belt with a one-sided third-round knockout of DILAN PRASOVIC. A body blow put paid to Prasovic’s tame challenge.
Slippery Prasovic (15-1, 12 KOs) stayed out of the way of the big bombs until a right hand in the second round wobbled the Montenegrin who shipped an uppercut shortly after and was dropped. The bell saved the challenger, who had refused step aside money to accept his big opportunity yet was instantly in survival mode.
A swiping body shot to the ribcage sent Prasovic to the canvas once again in the third session and he opted to stay down and take the 10 count. Working for DAZN, former world champion Darren Barker praised Okolie (17-0, 14 KOs) for his statement performance, but Prasovic was poor and stiffer challenges will come for the victor.
CALLUM SMITH made a statement on his light-heavyweight debut by brutally disposing of LENIN CASTILLO in round two. After prodding away with the jab in the opener, trainer Buddy McGirt asked his fighter to close the distance quicker and Smith (28-1, 20 KOs) dutifully responded.
A chopping right hand sent Castillo (21-4-1, 16 KOs) to the canvas, his left leg viciously vibrating, the end conclusively announced. Concern grew at ringside as the Dominican struggled to recover and he was swiftly taken to hospital for further examination.
FLORIAN MARKU defeated MAXIM PRODAN via a split decision after 10 rounds of intense action at welterweight. Marku (9-0-1, 6 KOs) claimed an IBF International bauble and snapped Prodan’s unbeaten record in the process. The Italian resident falls to 19-1-1 (15 KOs).
The scores were all over the place, with one judge awarding Prodan a 99-91 total. The remaining officials overruled the decision with a 97-93 and 96-94 in Marku’s favour.
CAMPBELL HATTON moved to 4-0 with a 58-57 victory on referee Marcus McDonnell’s scorecard over SONNI MARTINEZ. While the Spanish-based Uruguayan falls to 2-5 he was unlucky in the eyes of many, and 20-year-old Hatton’s mediocre displays are a cause for long term concern.