The buzz from the small crowd at the weigh in gave an insight to what sixty thousand plus fans on fight night would feel like. I really recommend attending the weigh in for big fights to set the atmosphere for fight night and gain that little Christmas-eve tingle. The face-offs were intense, a day before they went to war.
Setting off in anticipation for the fight ahead the following evening filled with excitement, the question began to loom – ‘Who do you reckon wins and how?’. I truly believed AJ was going to take out Usyk in the eighth round by stoppage, which I know was probably the popular consensus due to the size of AJ, but how wrong was I? Amidst the pre-fight convo, the tube journey appeared to go by fairly quickly and waves of fans began to build up nicely heading towards North London.
Walking towards the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was magnificent. Entering the huge stadium seemed overwhelming as a fan, let alone fighting under the lights in the dead centre of the pitch with all eyes on you.
Florian Marku kicked off the start of the card in a tough contest against Maxim Prodan which went the distance and claimed a split decision win. Slight confusion clouded the fight because one referee scored it a landslide in favour of Prodan which seemed impossible after watching the contest. The right man won, but an opponent like Conor Benn for Marku, is way too soon in my opinion. Impressive Albanian support surrounded the stadium and the journey of Marku is to be watched closely, a character that is fiery and confident definitely has a place on these big shows.
Callum Smith's debut at 175 pounds couldn’t have gone any better, a brutal KO left Gilbert Castillo visibly shaking on the floor which caused an enormous concern for his well being. Eddie Hearn later confirmed Castillo was responsive and back in the hotel safely which is always the priority. The future for Smith is bright, could a potential matchup with undefeated Bivol be on the horizon? A statement knockout like that was powerful and had social media talking about how dangerous ‘Mundo’ could potentially be at light-heavyweight.
Campbell Hatton appeared to struggle and faced yet more criticism for being above Smith on the undercard. He’s young and being thrown in the deep end which will pay off in a few years, I do believe he lost the fight against Sonni Martinez but he came away with the win and there’s precisely nothing anyone can do to change the decision, therefore the best constructive criticism I can give would be to keep going and keep improving and personally I would like to see Campbell on earlier in the bill.
Lawrence Okolie successfully defended his WBO World Cruiserweight Title against Dilan Prasovic, completely outclassing his opponent and stopping him with ease in three. The fight to now make is Briedis and what a match up it would be.
The main event ring walks commenced in a movie like state as fireworks set off and AJ’s calm demeanour paced towards the outskirts of the stadium, fist bumping fans along the way. A stark contrast compared to Usyk who appeared to adopt a much more straightforward walk to the ring. In hindsight, a sign of things to come. The first bell was accompanied by roars of the crowd significantly in AJ’s favour and the battle commenced.
Noticeably from where I was, Usyk caught Joshua with a straight jab to the face- my first memory of the fight along with elusive side to side bouncing changing direction inside the ropes from the Ukrainian. AJ did catch Usyk back throughout the fight, but just not enough. The fans wanted to see combinations and ring cutting imposing strength and height on the inside. Maybe, simply, AJ couldn’t physically achieve that.
Joshua appeared wobbled multiple times compared to Usyk, maybe once off balance but leaving talking points open to the fact that AJ hasn’t been the same since his defeat to Ruiz. Too cautious now? The 10 second bell always seemed to go off every time Joshua got a strong stalking rhythm going on, leaving it too late. The last thirty seconds of round twelve set the outcome in stone for me, had it gone on slightly longer AJ would have been stopped.
Oleksandr Usyk defeated Joshua deservedly by a UD points win.
Usyk’s relentless stamina is to be admired and he deserved the win on the night without a doubt. Can AJ change gameplans for the re-match? Of course he can. I would like to see AJ unlock that beast within him and be perhaps show a more spiteful and maybe slightly more dirty or rough side to him, then implementing harsh body shots on the inside to potentially slow Usyk’s momentum. Will the Fury fight ever happen? Eventually.
There’s a slightly heavy heart Tyson Fury fighting Anthony Joshua won’t be when they’re both undefeated. Besides, Fury versus Wilder 3 is not a concluded outcome as Wilder is training like a man possessed for the 9th October showdown. It is interesting times for the heavyweights but right now, congratulations to Usyk for a masterclass. Respect to Anthony for taking on the challenge.
For a fan it was a satisfying experience, you really feel like you're part of something big and involved rather than just spectating. You can engage with other fans with chants or the national anthem if that's your thing or just sit back with a beer to watch it happen. It's a memory those at the fight will have them for a very long time. Seeing AJ dethroned by another great and waking up the next morning with ringing ears and a rough voice from shouting, it's what these events are about.
The best fighting the best and you can say "I was there". History, made.