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They say it takes a strong man to cry and Anthony Joshua proved them right when he covered his eyes and cried with emotion that he had fought like a warrior king but failed to regain his crown.
Morning was almost breaking, but so was his heart.
We had never seen him like this before. Not even with previous defeats. This one, in a split decision, proved to be the most desperate. Because he had worked so hard to prepare and then came so close.
It was a poignant moment, and throats went dry in an audience of sometimes cynical critics as he explained his reaction to this loss.
Anthony Joshua was full of emotion after his heavyweight loss to Oleksandr Usyk
Joshua tearfully collapsed during his post-fight press conference
Throwing the oars into the crowd that Oleksandr Usyk had snatched from him in September and now held through some adversity was inappropriate.
Usyk’s revelation that Joshua was about to hit barefoot with some of his team was another surprise.
The Ukrainian made light of it and said: ‘I advised him against that. My men are some of the toughest street fighters in the world.’
AJ made up for it by praising Usyk and leading the arena crowd in three hip hoorays for his nemesis. “It was the passion that overflowed after everything I put into weeks of training,” Joshua said.
Can he bring himself to go through it all again? Including the potential for disappointment?
Tempers ran when Joshua initially threw Usyk’s belts out of the ring after the match
Usyk (pictured) recaptured his heavyweight titles to set up a unification fight with Tyson Fury
“I’ll be back in the ring in November or December,” he said, dispelling speculation that he would be retiring in October at the age of 33 and after 10 years of struggle.
“I will be a fighter for life,” he said. “Understand that fighters are not normal people. We live for this.’
So who could be next after Usyk, the best boxer in the world?
“Come one, come all,” Joshua exclaimed. “One fight this year, three more in 2023. Then I really believe I will be a three-time world heavyweight champion.”
That ambition was the subplot of his burning desire to end Usyk’s undefeated rule. But there would be no fork in the Red Sea that would allow Joshua to attack the immortality that the gods of the ring bestow upon the previous few multiple winners of boxing’s holy grail.
Joshua and Usyk went the distance and the Ukrainian got a split-decision win
Joshua bowed to Usyk in the wake of his defeat in Saudi Arabia on Saturday
In this land of mystery, of which this long night will be one of the most unforgettable, no miracle can be conjured from the shifting sands of fortune.
Joshua fought to the end in vain, but the victory remained a seductive mirage in the desert.
Yet there was redemption of a spiritual nature. He fought a much, much better battle than he did in the one where he surrendered to Oleksandr The Great 11 months ago.
After his furlough from the war front lines, Usyk found that the Englishman he’d been sucked into oblivion at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was back with the will to fight for his lost crown in this, the most royal and ancient city. from Arabia.
Joshua, 32, grabbed the in-ring mic after the fight to start his X-rated tirade
The two had a brief clash after the bell before hugging in the ring later
The first three rounds were a turning point in September’s fate, with Joshua winning them all.
Usyk would admit that he had felt heavy at the burden “to fight for a compelling victory for my country at this difficult time for Ukraine.”
He shook off the yoke the longer it went on, but the crux of this exciting contest came in the ninth and tenth rounds.
Joshua’s new Mexican trainer Robert Garcia had him realigned to direct traffic toward Usyk’s supposedly fragile torso. Sometimes those bad intentions strayed below the belt, resulting in warnings from the referee.
Joshua failed to beat his Ukrainian opponent in their rematch
But it was Joshua’s trademark right cross to the head that rocked the former undisputed cruiserweight champion into the ninth. Usyk confessed: “I was worried in the ninth. He began to use his height and strength.
“But in a fight like this it’s not about size. It’s spirit.’
He pumped that spirit up to almost inhumane levels in the 10th, with his astonishing response to adversity.
There the battle was lost and won. Where Joshua regained the respect born of his winning British gold at the 2012 London Olympics, but which had diminished in part due to his rare activity.
That won’t happen again. Not with his new, busier schedule.
Much of the internet trolling has given way to ‘hero-gramming’. The British love little better than heroic losers.
The man who gave British boxing the kiss of life is back in favour.
On a hot albeit foiled night in the dunes and lo, Joshua’s legacy is secured.