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What next for Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk?

The Rage on the Red Sea lived up to expectations as Oleksandr Usyk edged a split decision to hand Anthony Joshua a third defeat in five fights.

The pair squared off in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in a rematch of last September's meeting in Tottenham and again it went all the way to the final bell.

However, just as in London, the Ukrainian came out on top, with two judges scoring the fight 115-113 and 116-112 in his favour, while a third gave it to AJ 115-113.

Like their first meeting, it was a scenario of Usyk not having the punching power to knock his opponent out, while, despite his improvement, Joshua lacked the technique to outbox the champion.

Usyk, fighting at heavyweight for just the fourth time, retained his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight titles, much to his opponent's fury.

So much so that the Brit boxer picked up two of the belts and dumped them outside of the ring before making out as if he was on his way back to his dressing room.

However, he returned to provide an impassioned speech and despite his latest setback, there seems to be renewed life in the Watford-born star.

Story of the fight

After being criticised for his tactics in the first fight, Joshua rolled back the years on Saturday, with his best spell coming in the ninth round when he unloaded a flurry of blows.

However, The Cat hit back in the 10th, landing a five-punch combination and his better movement was clearly a factor throughout.

The early stages were tight, with AJ's new coach Robert Garcia telling his fighter after each of the first three rounds that he was ahead, perhaps dubiously.

However, he failed to make his size advantage count as Usyk's greater skill and speed allowed him to land more blows and dominate the ring.

Fighting Fury Usyk's only aim

Usyk's victory prompted wild celebrations, but the man himself kept his cool and had a clear message in the aftermath.

While dedicating his victory to his family, camp and country, he left little doubt that he wants his next opponent to be Tyson Fury.

Fury announced his retirement from boxing earlier this month, seemingly relinquishing his WBC title.

However, the 34-year-old appeared in a fighting mood after Saturday's showdown, taking to social media to inform the world that he would "annihilate" either fighter if challenged.

His comments appear to have opened the door for another retirement U-turn and the carrot of being the unified champion may be something he cannot resist.

Usyk certainly wants to meet him in the middle, the 35-year-old hinting that he himself could retire if he doesn't get his wish.

"I'm sure that Tyson Fury is not retired yet," he said. "I'm convinced he wants to fight me. I want to fight him. If I'm not fighting Fury, I'm not fighting at all."

AJ proud despite defeat

An emotional Joshua faced the press afterwards and accused those assembled of misunderstanding his reaction.

The 32-year-old said his actions were down to his disappointment at not being awarded the win, especially after working so hard to get in the kind of shape he felt would allow him to beat Usyk.

AJ admitted that boxing had helped transform his life and that the condition he had got himself into to go 12 rounds demonstrated just how far he has come.

"If you knew my story, you'd understand the passion," he said. "I'm not an amateur boxer.

"It shows the passion we put into this. For this guy to beat me tonight, it shows the levels of hard work he must have put in, so please give him a round of applause as heavyweight champion of world.

"They said that I'm not a 12-round fighter. I ain't 14 stone, I'm 18 stone, I'm heavy, it's hard work. This guy here is phenomenal."

There's no doubt that Joshua silenced some of his critics with his performance in Jeddah, but after a third loss in five bouts, he now needs to resurrect his career.

The early signs from his combination with new trainer Garcia are positive, with him looking a more complete fighter than he had done previously.

At 32, and with the biggest names in the division talking about retirement, is there time for him to launch one last campaign to conquer the world?

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