Russ Anber thought Anthony Joshua’s ninth round in his WBA, WBO, IBO and IBF heavyweight title rematch against incumbent champion Oleksandr Usyk was a tad overblown.
That was the period in which London’s Joshua had one of his best stretches in a fight that he ultimately wound up losing by split decision in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In that round, Joshua seemed to stagger the fleet-footed Usyk with body shots and followed up with harrowing combinations. Many observers suggested Joshua was close to getting the stoppage over the Ukrainian champion in that round.
Anber, Usyk’s longtime cutman and glove maker, however, did not think that was exactly the case. While he conceded that Joshua put forward a valiant and dominant effort in the ninth round, he also pointed out that Usyk was in full control despite being under duress, describing his fighter’s strategy as “weathering the storm.”
“It was a great round (for Joshua),” Anber told BBC 5 Live Boxing. “And I think you’ll understand this. Even though he (Usyk) doesn’t have a lot of professional experience, all he did was weather the storm. So it looked like AJ was all over him, got him hurt—the big guy’s hitting you, right?
“But instead of trying to grab and panic, he just weathered the storm. He knew this guy was coming. ‘OK, I’ve lost this round, doesn’t matter, I’m not gonna lose it any worse than this.’ So he came back to the corner. He was fine when he came back to the corner. We hit him with the ice water. He was fine. The evidence was what happened in the next round.”
Usyk answered back in the 10th round with full force, whipping the larger Joshua with clean combinations. It was the sally that arguably sealed the fight in the Ukrainian’s favor. Indeed, even one of Usyk’s trainers, Robert Garcia, recently stated that he believed Joshua lost his mental confidence in that round due to Usyk’s dominance.
Anber, who is the President of Rival Boxing Gear, a prominent Montreal-based glove manufacturer, made it clear that Joshua showed up in improved form than the first encounter with Usyk last September at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
“100% he was (improved),” Anber said of Joshua. “He had the guard up. He was difficult to hit. He wasn’t letting Usyk move him back like he did last time. He stood his ground. If he sensed that he was getting any sense of danger from Usyk he just fired back to keep Usyk honest.”
After the fight, many observers took issue with judge Glenn Feldman’s 115-113 scorecard for Joshua. Anber, however, said that Usyk was not bothered by Feldman’s dissenting tally. Judge Steve Gray and Viktor Fesechko had it for Usyk 115-113 and 116-112, respectively.
“They asked him in there (in the locker room) what do you think about that it was a split decision,” Anber said. “[He said] ‘split, no split, the right guy won.’”