Not even Barry Hearn believes his star charge Anthony Joshua did quite enough to beat Oleksandr Uysk.
The founder and president of Matchroom Sport, Hearn offered an honest assessment of Joshua’s performance against Ukraine’s Usyk in their heavyweight title unification rematch last Saturday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The fight went the distance, with Usyk winning a split decision.
The general consensus is that Joshua performed better than in the first fight, which took place last September at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, but for Hearn, whose son Eddie helms Matchroom’s boxing division, Joshua still did not do enough to eke out a win.
Leading up to the fight, the elder Hearn believed Joshua was capable of winning a legitimate decision. Had Joshua been awarded one, however, Hearn said he would have felt “guilty.” One judge, Glenn Feldman of America, scored the bout 115-113 for Joshua, sparking a minor controversy. Judge Viktor Fesechko had it 116-112 for Usyk and Steve Gray of the UK had it 115-113 also for Usyk.
“Yeah, well, I mean, listen, I would’ve taken the victory, but I would’ve felt guilty about it,” Hearn told BBC 5 Live Boxing. “Because to my mind—Anthony is like family to us. He’s a great guy, he’s fabulous for boxing. Like Tiger Woods has done so much for golf, Joshua has done the same job for boxing and every fighter is getting the benefit from it.
“But my eyes don’t lie … Usyk is a class fighter. He’s got gears that I didn’t think he could pull out. When he came out of the 10th round after a battering in the ninth I thought that showed what real champions are made of and hats off to him. And that’s just being fair. I’d have loved to be saying to you [we won], but if we had got it on points I would’ve felt as though we stole something.”
“I thought it was a better fight than the first one from Joshua’s point of view,” Hearn said. “Perhaps he didn’t quite put his foot on the accelerator in the early rounds with someone like Usyk, who let’s be honest, is pound for pound. This guy is close to unbeatable. Time will tell. No one is unbeatable. But you gotta hurt him early. You’ve got to slow him down.
“Anthony didn’t quite do that. Was it rounds nine and 10? Two of the greatest rounds I’ve ever seen. They were great rounds. Round nine you finally think is Anthony finally going to let his hands go. Should he have done it earlier before he started to gas? Maybe.”