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Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk defends the heavyweight belt

KING ABDULLAH SPORTS CITY, Saudi Arabia –

Oleksandr Usyk kisses the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine and looks up at the sky over Saudi Arabia while waiting to discover if he will honor his war-torn country by retaining his world heavyweight titles. gender or not.

Upon hearing the words victory “and still”, Usyk emotional raised his left arm and pulled the flag to his face.

Six months ago, he was patrolling the streets of Kyiv with an automatic rifle and defending Ukraine from the invading Russians.

Here, inside the ring at the King Abdullah Sport City arena, the still undefeated Usyk has deserved Ukraine’s sporting pride by beating Anthony Joshua in a tight rematch on Saturday to keep WBA, WBO and IBF belts.

“I dedicate this victory to my country, to my family, to my team, to all the troops that are defending this country,” Usyk, 35, said through an interpreter. “Thank you very much.”

After a grueling five-month training camp, Usyk entered the arena wearing a blue and yellow shirt bearing the words “Colors of Freedom” and supported by words of encouragement from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during nightly speech to the nation.

“We stick together,” the president said. “We help each other. We restore what was destroyed. We fight for all our people. And we cheer for those who represent Ukraine, today – for sure. is for Usyk, our boy!”

And Usyk started to gain popularity after beating Joshua in his first bout in London last September.

However, the British challenger, the former two-time champion, enters the rematch with a new game plan from new coach Robert Garcia: Attack Usyk’s body and keep up the pressure.

And it almost succeeded, with Usyk being brought to the limit in the ninth round as he was chased around the ring by Joshua, who landed the combo and aimed for Usyk’s ribs.

Usyk took a deep breath after the bell, then came on hard on the 10th round, injuring Joshua with an early right hook and forcing him to wind up for the first time in the bout.

The Joshua fight continued into round 11 while round 12 was evenly fought, the fight ended with both fighters – clearly exhausted – kneeling in front of each other on the canvas.

They hug and Joshua appears to offer help to Ukraine’s plight.

Then, in an energetic speech inside the ring after snatching the microphone, Joshua – who had just been seen picking up two of Usyk’s belts and tossing them on the canvas – hit back at those pointing quotes him before praising Usyk for fighting so well. in the cases.

“I studied Ukraine and all the champions from your wonderful country,” says Joshua. “I’ve never been there. What’s going on there, I don’t know but it’s not cool. For Usyk to win, in that situation, please raise your hand.”

Usyk also praised Joshua.

“This is already history,” he said. “Generations will watch this match, especially one where someone tried to hit me hard. But I stood up and turned it around in a different way.”

Usyk also earned the Ring Magazine belt with the win. There’s only one heavyweight title that Usyk doesn’t own – the WBC is about to be vacated by Tyson Fury, who says he’s retired.

When asked about Fury, Usyk said: “I’m sure Tyson Fury hasn’t retired. I’m sure Tyson Fury wants to fight me. If I don’t fight Tyson Fury, I don’t fight at all.”

Two judges gave it to Usyk, one 115-113 and the other 116-112. The other man fought for Joshua, 115-113.

Joshua, the two-time heavyweight champion, has lost his third fight in 27 fights and his career is at a crossroads.

Where Usyk goes from now on seems to depend on Fury.

Saudi state television released photos showing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the fighting. The 36-year-old son of King Salman, the crown prince has been promoting sporting events to the kingdom even as US intelligence agencies believe he ordered the beheading and dismemberment of Washington journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Post.

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