Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk retained his heavyweight titles after a thrilling rematch with Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia.

Usyk won on a split points decision after the pair went the full 12 rounds – 113-115, 115-113 and 116-112.

Until around March, Usyk was fighting on the front line in Kyiv, but left the war-torn country to focus on his revenge with Joshua.

Read more: Who is Oleksandr Usyk?

After the judges’ decision was declared, Joshua threw two of the title belts over the ropes before stepping out of the ring.

However, he came back and grabbed the mic, telling King Abdullah Sports City: “If you knew my story, you would understand the passion.

“I’m not a five year old amateur boxer who was an elite prospect since youth. I was going to jail, got out on bail and started training, I wanted to be able to fight .

“This guy beat me tonight, maybe I could have done better, but it shows the level of hard work I put in, so please applaud him as a world champion heavyweights.”

The pair also briefly posed with the Ukrainian flag in a stance of solidarity in defiance of Russia’s ongoing assault on the country.

Photo: AP

“If I don’t fight Tyson Fury, I don’t fight at all”

After his victory, Usyk paid tribute to the Ukrainian army and said he was only interested in the next fight against WBC champion Tyson Fury.

Usyk said: “I won this victory for my country, for all the people, the military defending the country. Thank you very, very much.”

He added: “I’m sure Tyson Fury isn’t retired yet. I’m sure, I’m convinced he wants to fight me. I want to fight him, and if I don’t fight Tyson Fury, I’m don’t fight at all.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy extended his congratulations to his compatriot shortly after the fight, tweeting: “VICTORY difficult, but so important and necessary!

“Defending the title of world champion is a symbol that everyone who is a Cossack type will not give up theirs, they will fight for it and will definitely win!”

Boxing - Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua - WBA, WBO and IBF world heavyweight title - King Abdullah Sports City Arena, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - August 20, 2022 Oleksandr Usyk after winning his fight against Anthony Joshua Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

The rematch in Saudi Arabia follows their fight last year in London, where Usyk won the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight belts from the British boxer.

Their fight in Jeddah was a different story though, with Joshua giving a much better performance against the Ukrainian compared to last year, landing blows and unloading occasionally on Usyk.

But it was Usyk who emerged victorious, landing more punches on his opponent, with a higher work rate than AJ.

It’s not the first time this year that the UK have come second to Ukraine in a global event – with the country’s Kalush Orchestra win the Eurovision Song Contest over Britain’s Sam Ryder, who was pushed into second place by the public vote – despite coming top of the national juries.

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