Tagged in: heavyweight

Anthony Joshua regrets post-fight antics after Oleksandr Usyk rematch defeat

Anthony Joshua has stated he let himself down in the moments after his split decision defeat in a rematch with Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday.

Joshua failed to reclaim the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight titles as he suffered his second consecutive loss to Usyk — his third defeat in his last five fights. The 32-year-old threw two of Usyk’s belts to the floor after the final bell before storming out of the ring, only to return later and deliver an impassioned speech.

“I wish Usyk continued success in your quest for greatness. You are a class act champ” Joshua said in a Twitter post on Sunday.

“Yesterday I had to mentally take myself into a dark place to compete for the championship belts! I had two fights, one with Usyk and one with my emotions and both got the better of me. “I’ll be the first to admit, I let my self down. I acted out of pure passion and emotion and when not controlled it ain’t great. I love this sport so so much and I’ll be better from this point on.”

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The 32-year-old also reflected on his behavior during his post-fight news conference, saying his speech, in which he called himself a new breed of heavyweight and led a cheer for Usyk, was “from the heart.”

“When you try and do things from your heart, not everyone is going to understand,” Joshua said. “It was just from the heart. I knew I was mad at myself. Not at anyone, just myself. I was like I got to get out here because I’m mad.

“When you’re angry you might do stupid things. Then I realised this is sport. I came back and did the right thing.”

Joshua fought back tears after the fight as he reflected on his defeat, saying he was deeply “upset” with his performance versus the Ukrainian heavyweight champion.

“It’s really, really hard for me to say I’m proud of myself. I’m upset, really, deep down in my heart,” he added.

“I tried a different style… in the last fight I wanted to compete as a boxer, but it wasn’t good enough, and tonight wasn’t good enough.”

Joshua said he plans to return to the ring in December, adding that his promoter, Eddie Hearn, wants him to have three or four fights next year.

“I spoke to Eddie and asked him if it’s possible to get out in November because momentum is important in boxing. Eddie said December,” Joshua said.

“If it’s about who I fight, it’s come one, come all. Whoever wants it can get it, I don’t mind.”

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Deontay Wilder, Robert Helenius working on finalizing deal for PBC PPV fight in October

Former heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder and Robert Helenius are in the process of concluding a deal for a PBC on FOX pay-per-view fight Oct. 15 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, sources confirmed to ESPN.

Wilder (42-2-1, 41 KOs) contemplated retirement following a brutal 11th-round KO loss to Tyson Fury in their October 2021 fight that was named ESPN’s Fight of the Year.

The 36-year-old will lastly face a different adversary for the first time since November 2019, following two consecutive inside-the-distance defeats to Fury.

Helenius (31-3, 20 KOs) last fought on the Fury-Wilder undercard, when he scored a TKO over Adam Kownacki in a second consecutive bout.

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The fringe contender, who fights out of Finland, has competed just three times since a KO defeat to Gerald Washington in July 2019.

Wilder, ESPN’s No. 3 heavyweight, delivered perhaps his most memorable career performance in defeat. He was given little chance following the second meeting with Fury, when “The Gypsy King” brutalized him en route to a seventh-round TKO, but Wilder was able to floor Fury twice in Round 4.

The Olympic bronze medalist is perhaps the most imposing puncher in boxing, and with a win he could find himself in line for a matchup versus Andy Ruiz next year if the former champ defeats Luis Ortiz on Sept. 4.

Heavyweight contender Frank Sanchez is slated to compete on the Oct. 15 undercard, sources said. BoxingScene.com first reported the Wilder-Helenius news.

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Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua heavyweight title rematch set for Aug. 20

The heavyweight title rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua is now set for Aug. 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, sources told on Thursday.

The fight was originally being planned for July 23, but now Joshua will have nearly 30 more days to work with new trainer Robert Garcia.

When they met last September, Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) dominated Joshua en route to a unanimous decision victory to capture three heavyweight titles. Joshua, 32, quickly exercised the rematch clause, and neither boxer has competed since.

In the meantime, Joshua parted ways with Robert McCracken, the only head trainer he’d ever had in the pros. McCracken also led Joshua to a gold medal in 2012 as the head coach of the Great Britain Olympic boxing team.

Another change for Joshua comes on the broadcast side.

The British star has competed exclusively on Sky Sports for the past eight years, but his deal expired after the Usyk fight. Earlier this week, the streaming service DAZN announced Joshua has signed a long-term deal to fight exclusively on its platform.

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“I am entering a new phase in my career with a new training environment, new coaches and now a new broadcaster,” said Joshua, ESPN’s No. 4 heavyweight. “Negotiations at this level take time, so I am pleased to have it all wrapped up and now I can fully focus on giving the fans and DAZN what they want — knockouts in the glamour division.”

But it was Usyk, 35, who seemed on the verge of scoring the stoppage in Round 12. The former undisputed cruiserweight champion — and fellow Olympic gold medalist — lives in Ukraine with his family and was there when Russia invaded in February.

In March, Usyk decided to leave the war-torn country so he could prepare for the rematch and the first defense of his three titles.

This will be Joshua’s second fight in Saudi Arabia. After losing his three titles to Andy Ruiz Jr. in June 2019 in New York via seventh-round TKO, Joshua exacted revenge with a decision victory over Ruiz in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in December 2019.

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Charles Oliveira to defend title vs. Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 in May, Dana White says

UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira will seek his second title defense versus Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 on May 7, UFC president Dana White told ESPN on Wednesday.

The UFC is working on finalizing the 155-pound title fight shortly. The pay-per-view event now contains two title fights. Brazilian light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira will face Jiri Prochazka on the same date.

The UFC has not revealed an official venue. It had considered holding it in Brazil, but the card is now expected to take place in the U.S.

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Oliveira (32-8) is coming off a spectacular year in 2021.

The 32-year-old from Brazil won the vacant title by knocking out Michael Chandler in the second round of an exhilarating title fight in May, and finished off the calendar year with a comeback submission triumph over Dustin Poirier for his first title defense.

Gaethje (23-3) has been waiting for another crack at UFC gold since former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov retired in October 2020. Gaethje, of Arizona, challenged Nurmagomedov for the title in the final fight of Nurmagomedov’s career.

His record made him worthy of fighting for the vacant title right away, but he was forced to pick up one more win before earning the shot.

That win came versus Chandler in November at UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden, where Gaethje won the fight via decision.

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Anthony Joshua exercises right to rematch with Oleksandr Usyk for heavyweight championship

Anthony Joshua exercised his contractual right to an immediate rematch with Oleksandr Usyk for the unified heavyweight championship, Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, revealed on Saturday.

Hearn stated he plans to stage Usyk-Joshua 2 in early spring.

“Back in the game and looking for him to become a three-time world champion,” Hearn said.

Joshua, 31, had 30 days from last month’s upset defeat to Usyk to inform the other side, in writing, that he was exercising the rematch clause. Neither boxer can stage an interim fight before the rematch.

The battle of Olympic gold medalists from the 2012 Games wasn’t all that competitive despite Joshua’s advantage in size and heavyweight experience.

Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) was boxing as a heavyweight for just the third time but neutralized Joshua’s edge in size and strength with superior quickness, boxing smarts and footwork.

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The former undisputed cruiserweight champion appeared on the verge of stopping Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) in the closing seconds of a fight that featured no knockdowns, though Joshua was stunned on several occasions.

Joshua, a U.K. star, emerged from the bout with a badly damaged right eye and sat on his stool for minutes after the fight concluded.

The unanimous-decision loss was the second of Joshua’s career. His other defeat was a shocking seventh-round TKO loss to Andy Ruiz Jr.

That fight also contained a rematch clause and Joshua made good use of it by exacting revenge via decision six months later in Saudi Arabia.

Usyk, a 34-year-old Ukrainian, is ESPN’s No. 2 heavyweight and No. 9 pound-for-pound boxer. Joshua is ESPN’s No. 4 heavyweight.

Usyk’s tremendous victory spoiled plans for a Tyson Fury-Joshua super fight in the first half of 2022. Fury and Joshua hoped to meet Aug. 14 in Saudi Arabia before an independent arbitrator ruled that Fury owed Wilder a third fight.

They meet Saturday for the WBC heavyweight championship (9 p.m. ET, ESPN+ PPV). The WBC ruled that if the winner of Saturday’s bout doesn’t unify with Usyk next, that the victor will be ordered to fight Dillian Whyte, the long-standing WBC No. 1 contender.

If Whyte can upend Otto Wallin on Oct. 30 in London, he could be in line to fight Fury or Wilder in the first half of 2022.

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Anthony Smith dominates light heavyweight bout with first-round submission of Ryan Spann

Anthony Smith stated two years ago after a title loss to all-time great Jon Jones that maybe he’d never get another opportunity to defeat Jones.

But that was OK, Smith said, because he’d simply outlast Jones — and the rest of the UFC light heavyweight division.

Those comments have aged pretty well.

Smith took out another up-and-comer Saturday night, submitting Ryan Spann with a rear-naked choke at 3:47 of the first round in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.

Smith dropped Spann twice with punches and then finished the job on the ground with his grappling acumen in an outstanding performance.

Smith has five first-round finishes since 2018, tied with Vicente Luque for the most in the UFC during that stretch, per ESPN Stats & Info.

“He’s got the skills,” Smith said in his postfight interview. “I think I’m better.” After referee Herb Dean stopped the fight following Spann’s tap, Smith started jawing at Spann.

The two men had to be separated by security and their teams. Smith took umbrage with some of the trash talk coming from Spann and his team leading up to this fight. But cooler heads prevailed and the two ended up embracing and exchanging pleasantries.

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Smith stated after the bout he wants another streaking prospect next: Aleksandar Rakic. The two fought in August 2020 with Rakic winning by unanimous decision.

“He’s just sitting around,” Smith said. “He’s not next in line for the title. Either I want that fight or I skip it.”

Rakic tweeted seconds later that he was free in December. To that, Smith responded: “Merry Christmas to me.”

Smith clipped Spann with a left hand behind the ear that dropped him early in the first round during an exchange.

Spann was able to get back to his feet after escaping an armbar attempt.

When the two got into another striking exchange, Smith was able to land a big left followed by a right hand that hurt Spann. Another right put Spann down; Smith took his back in a scramble and then cinched in the choke that ended things.

Smith (36-16) has won three consecutive — all by finish — and was coming off a first-round TKO victory over prospect Jimmy Crute.

The Nebraska native lost to Jones, who has since vacated the belt and left the division, at UFC 235 in March 2019. He is 4-2 since then. Smith, 33, has been very solid since moving up to light heavyweight from middleweight in 2018, going 7-3 with wins over former champions Rashad Evans and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, as well as former multiple-time title challenger Alexander Gustafsson.

Spann (19-7) was seeking his first real signature win against a top light heavyweight. The Texas resident was coming off a first-round TKO win over Misha Cirkunov in March.

Spann, 30, has won nine of his last 11 fights and is a former LFA light heavyweight champion.

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Jairzinho Rozenstruik authors another buzzer-beater, stopping Augusto Sakai in UFC Fight Night

Jairzinho Rozenstruik has a knack for getting finishes right before the bell.

Less than two years after he earned the latest finish in UFC heavyweight history, Rozenstruik uncorked another buzzer-beater Saturday. The kickboxing standout stopped Augusto Sakai via TKO with punches at 4 minutes, 59 seconds of the first round in the main event of UFC Fight Night.

Rozenstruik pressured Sakai against the cage with the first coming to an end. Sakai attempted to circle off to his right, but Rozenstruik caught him with a stunning left hook and then a right hand behind the ear.

Sakai dropped to the canvas and Rozenstruik swarmed with big punches until referee Herb Dean stopped the action right before Sakai could be saved by the horn.

“As soon as I heard the [10-second] clock — tock, tock, tock — I faked him with the right, hit him with the left and hit him with the right again,” Rozenstruik stated in his postfight interview.

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In December 2019, Rozenstruik finished Alistair Overeem via TKO at 4:56 of the fifth and final round, the deepest a UFC heavyweight bout that ended in finish has ever gone.

ESPN has Rozenstruik ranked No. 7 in the world at heavyweight. He was coming off a loss, so this gets him back on track — and right back into title contention.

“Anybody that’s ranked above me makes sense,” Rozenstruik said when asked whom he wants to fight next. “There’s the top five there. I’m coming for you guys. I’m coming.”

Rozenstruik (12-2) has won two of his past three fights.

The Suriname native struggled to pull the trigger in a unanimous decision loss to Ciryl Gane in February. Rozenstruik wanted to return as quickly as he could to remove the bad taste from his mouth from that loss.

Following a quick knockout loss to top contender Francis Ngannou in May 2020, Rozenstruik bounced back with a TKO of former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos last August. And now he has bounced back from the Gane fight.

Rozenstruik, 33, has several kickboxing titles to his name and is now seeking MMA gold in the future. Sakai (15-3-1) has been one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC heavyweight division.

The Brazil native won four consecutive in the UFC before falling to Overeem by fifth-round TKO last December. He has now dropped two straight.

Sakai, 30, has just those two losses in his past eight battles.

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Derrick Lewis KO’s Curtis Blaydes in biggest UFC main event upset in 5 years

Curtis Blaydes made no apologies about his strategy coming into a huge heavyweight fight with Derrick Lewis. Blaydes was going to use his dominant wrestling early and often. He told anyone who would listen.

Maybe it was a decoy. But Blaydes should have stuck to his original game plan, as Lewis crushed him with an uppercut knockout at 1:26 of the second round in Saturday’s main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.

Blaydes gained confidence on the feet in the first round and attempted only one takedown, which Lewis stuffed. And Lewis, one of the most dangerous KO artists in the history of MMA, made him pay.

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It was the biggest upset in a UFC main event since Michael Bisping defeated Luke Rockhold at UFC 199 in 2016, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Lewis was a +350 underdog, per Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, ESPN’s odds provider. Bisping was +400 against Rockhold five years ago.

With the stoppage, Lewis ties Vitor Belfort with the most knockouts in UFC history (12).

Lewis also is now tied for the second-most wins in UFC heavyweight history (16) with Frank Mir. Andrei Arlovski is the all-time UFC heavyweight victories leader, with 19.

Saturday’s finish came when Blaydes ducked in, trying to close the distance for a clinch or a takedown. Lewis saw it coming and let loose with a massive uppercut. Blaydes’ body shook on impact, and he was unconscious as he fell to the canvas. Lewis followed up on the ground with punches, until referee Herb Dean came in to pull him off.

“That was the only punch I was waiting for the entire fight,” Lewis said. “I knew he was gonna come in. … That’s all I was waiting for. I wasn’t worried about throwing a one-two, a jab or anything.”

The fight was originally arranged for Nov. 28, but Blaydes tested positive for COVID-19, and the contest was pulled one day prior to the event before official weigh-ins.

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Promoter — Deal done for Anthony Joshua-Tyson Fury heavyweight title fight

Anthony Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn stated a deal for the world heavyweight champion to meet Tyson Fury in an undisputed world heavyweight title fight this year is all but done, with a venue in the Middle East a front-runner to host it.

Joshua defeated Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev last month to keep his IBF, WBO and WBA titles to set up the prospect of a mouth-watering clash with fellow Briton Fury who holds the WBC belt.

“The deal is done, really — without being signed,” Hearn told the Times.

“The financial elements of the deal are done. We’re talking through the broadcast situation, the only thing really now is to paper it. “And when you paper a deal like that, it does go back and forwards 15 times before every single letter is approved on the document.”

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Fury has not fought since beating American Deontay Wilder in their Las Vegas rematch in February to claim the WBC crown.

Fury and Wilder had a rematch clause in their contract but they couldn’t make the fight.

Hearn said Joshua and Fury would face off in two fights — with the first likely to be in the Middle East later this year — and he hoped to bring the rematch back to Britain.

“The Middle East will be aggressive and will be front-runners in this. To stage this fight, you need significant government support. You need someone who is staging this fight as a statement for their country,” Hearn added.

“I’d like it [the rematch] to be [in the United Kingdom]. Where? Millennium Stadium.”

Fury’s American promoter Bob Arum has stated before that he is “95 per cent confident the fight happens”. Arum said: “I don’t want to make a deadline, but I just can report that everything so far has been going splendidly, and we hope to have a signed document within the next couple of weeks.

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Usyk to fight Chisora with Joshua unavailable

Usyk is Joshua’s mandatory challenger but will take on Chisora in the interim in what will be just his second fight at heavyweight.

Dereck Chisora has vowed to shatter Oleksandr Usyk’s dream of becoming heavyweight world champion.

The former undisputed cruiserweight ruler is Anthony Joshua’s mandatory challenger but may have to wait until next year for his opportunity.

Joshua is due to defend his three belts versus Kubrat Pulev in June and could then face fellow champion Tyson Fury in December.

In the meantime, Usyk will take on Chisora in just his second fight in boxing’s premier division on May 23.

And the Brit is ready to ruin his rival’s plan and set himself up for a shot at Joshua – and a seven-figure pay day.

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Chisora said: “He is already at the top and could easily have not taken this fight.

“I just hope I don’t scare him too much that he pulls out of the fight. He has the golden ticket and I’m going to take what he has and make it mine.”

Usyk conquered all four belts at cruiserweight in just 16 fights and signed off with victory over Tony Bellew in Manchester.

He stopped Chazz Witherspoon on his heavyweight debut last October and Chisora is all too aware of the challenge in front of him.

He added: “I’m fighting one of the best guys out there, he knows how to box, there’s no two ways about it.

“I can’t get sparring partners who know how to box like him so I’m going unorthodox for this fight, I’ve decided to chuck whatever I can chuck for however long I last.

“I believe he can knock me out but if that doesn’t happen I’m going to keep coming and coming. I’m ready to die in this fight.

“The guy has good foot movement, if I box his way he’s going to win. He can dance around me 24/7 but I know I need to land a couple of punches to slow him down.”

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