Joshua, Usman defeat: End of an era?

Joshua, Usman defeat: End of an era?


Ebenezer Bajela

“I should have won,” Joshua lamented after his second defeat to Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

“I adapted, I made the change that I needed to give him more of a competitor. It wasn’t enough but I left everything in the gym.”

Joshua bemoaned his second loss to Usyk, after the Ukrainian fought back to retain his world heavyweight titles.

Never has anyone seen the 32-year-old react the way he did after he stormed out of the ring in rage, failing to inflict on the Ukrainian his first professional loss.

Usyk won the rematch titled ‘Rage on the Red Sea’ on a split decision, taking it 116-112 and 115-113 respectively on the cards of Ukraine’s Viktor Fesechko and Britain’s Steve Gray. While Glenn Feldman of the USA scored 115-113 for Joshua.

Joshua pushed Usyk all the way and produced a largely more impressive performance than in his first fight at Tottenham Hotspur stadium last year but couldn’t find a way past his Ukrainian counterpart, who fired back to control the final stages for a split-decision win.

The London 2012 Olympics gold medallist has thus lost for the third time in his professional career having previously relinquished the IBF, WBA and WBO titles to Andy Ruiz in a shock defeat in 2019.

Joshua however reclaimed the titles back in a rematch but had his dominance and technicality questioned by many.

The defeat ended Joshua’s hopes of taking on Tyson Fury but Usyk, instead, is now eyeing a heavyweight unification fight with the Gypsy King.

While Joshua is left trying to rebuild his career after his third defeat, Usyk retains the IBF, WBA and WBO titles and will now seek a unification showdown with WBC champion Tyson Fury.

Meanwhile, just a few hours after Joshua’s defeat, there was more disappointment to come for Nigerians as Kamaru Usman lost to Leon Edwards at UFC 278 main event at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, USA on Sunday morning.

The welterweight champion was making the sixth defence of his title in a rematch of his 2015 clash with Edwards.

While the fight looked to be heading for the same conclusion as Usman overcame a tricky start to stamp his authority on the main event, Edwards landed a vicious kick that sent the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ sprawling to the canvas with just seconds left of their five-bout clash.

It was Usman’s first defeat in 15 successive bouts and his second in his entire career.

The defeat to Joshua and Usman has raised suggestions among fans if this could be the end of both fighters.

Mccoy4real said, “I felt you didn’t listen to your coach instructions remember, he cautioned you about your first mistake that led to your first fall in this UFC.”

John Stampp added, “Usman received a taste of humility to make him a better person. Leon was correct that things have gone to Usman’s head.”

On Joshua’s ability to come back stronger into the game, Banjo Thomas, a Twitter user wrote, “AJ would also lose to Fury twice and Wilder twice, he is of limited ability.”

“There’s only one hope left to restore the Great British Heavyweight,” Patrick Whelan said, referring to Fury as their only hope.

While a trilogy of fights between Usman and Edwards has been confirmed after UFC President Dana White said he plans to have them complete their trilogy of fights in the UK, potentially at Wembley Stadium, a less-glamorous encounter against someone ranked in the top 15 but relatively low-risk could be next on the agenda if Joshua returns before the year is out.

However, could this be an end to the era of these two Nigerian fighters?