LONDON (REUTERS) - Ukraine's Oleksandr Usyk dethroned world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in his own backyard with a stunning display to earn a unanimous points decision in front of a sell-out crowd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday (Sept 25).
The 34-year-old former undisputed cruiserweight world champion put on a masterclass to silence the vast majority of the 67,000 fans who packed into the huge arena.
Usyk, giving away height, weight and reach to the champion, proved too elusive for Joshua throughout an enthralling contest and landed the much cleaner shots, finishing with a flurry in Round 12 as he went in search of a knockout.
Joshua stayed on his feet but the decision was a formality as Usyk claimed the World Boxing Association, World Boxing Organisation, International Boxing Federation and International Boxing Organisation belts. The three judges scored the fight 117-112, 116-112, 115-113.
Former Olympic champion Usyk, who was contesting only his third professional heavyweight fight, follows in the footsteps of compatriots Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, who dominated the division for a decade from 2004-15.
He is also just the third cruiserweight world champion to step up a weight class and become the heavyweight world champion after Evander Holyfield and David Haye.
For Joshua, a second career defeat was a crushing blow and scuppered his hopes of a unification showdown with fellow Briton Tyson Fury, the World Boxing Council holder, who takes on American Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas on Oct 9.
Even the most die-hard Joshua fans had to admit that their man had been schooled by a silky opponent who rarely looked ruffled even when suffering a cut above his eye late on.
Joshua gave the crowd little to cheer about and appeared to run out of ideas against his southpaw opponent who was ahead throughout the fight.
"This means a lot for me. The fight went the way I expected it to go. There were moments when Anthony pushed me hard but it was nothing special," Usyk told Sky Sports.
"I had no objective to knock him out because my corner pushed me not to do that. In the beginning, I tried to hit him hard but then I stuck to my job."
A sensational atmosphere greeted the fighters as they climbed into the ring, with the crowd in full cry and fireworks blasting into the sky.
But from the moment the first bell sounded, Joshua appeared unsure whether to try to overpower his opponent or try to outbox him - and he failed miserably at both.
A nervous hush descended on the stadium in the opening rounds as Usyk's threat became all too apparent.
Constantly on the move, he rocked Joshua in the third with a powerful left hand.
Usyk retained control in the following rounds as Joshua failed to unleash his supposed superior power and the Londoner was in big trouble again in the seventh round as he was sent staggering backwards by a big left hook.
A nick appeared above Usyk's eye in the 10th round but Joshua's face was showing signs of battle damage.
Joshua needed a knockout to retain his belts but it was Usyk who came closest with a ferocious attack at the end of the 12th.
Even before the official result was announced, some Joshua fans were heading for the exits while Usyk's followers were just getting the party started.
Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn said his fighter was "devastated" by the defeat.
"Congratulations to Oleksandr Usyk. What a fighter. He put in a great performance and the better man won," Hearn said.