In this corner with Russ Anber: The inside view on Usyk’s masterful win

Boxing Social columnist Russ Anber gives the exclusive lowdown on stemming a potentially troublesome cut in Oleksandr Usyk’s corner during the Ukrainian’s memorable toppling of Anthony Joshua…

Most people don’t realise this, in fact no one seemed to notice it at all – but Oleksandr Usyk suffered a potentially devastating cut against Anthony Joshua on Saturday night.

I’ve been in Usyk’s corner for nine fights now, and it’s my honour and privilege that he trusts me to deal with any cuts he suffers and on Saturday night I had to spring into action.

The cut opened in the ninth or tenth round above Usyk’s right eye and it ran north to south, up and down rather than across. Those are the worst sort of cuts to deal with. To give you an idea of how bad the cut was, it needed three stitches on the inside of the cut and seven stitches on the outside of the cut.

Anber stemmed a potentially devastating cut sustained by Oleksandr Usyk.

In terms of how we dealt with it, we saw Usyk bleeding and when he got back into the corner I dealt with it the way I deal with any cut. I just did what I’m supposed to do. I dried the wound, got the adrenaline on it, put pressure on it and put the Vaseline on it.

Some people may think this sounds a bit strange, but I really didn’t feel any pressure when I was dealing with that cut. The hype surrounding the fight and the 65,000 people in the crowd screaming AJ’s name really didn’t affect me. When I’m working a corner I’m oblivious to all of that. I just get to work – whether it’s a world heavyweight title fight or a four-rounder with a couple of novices.

In short, I get into a zone – a bit like fighters do. My heart doesn’t race and I don’t panic. When I’m in that corner I feel like I’m exactly where I’m meant to be, where I’ve worked so hard to be for so many years.

As for the fight itself, Usyk fought great and implemented a great strategy. To be honest I was surprised how fast Usyk started and how slowly AJ started. I thought Joshua would try and impose himself but Usyk probably won three of the first four rounds. Joshua is normally a good front runner who starts fast, but Usyk didn’t allow him to get a foothold. Straight away I knew that would be great for us, because Usyk has such a great engine and I knew he would be strong down the stretch. He has that Secretariat style heart and stamina. He can go and go and go.

Anber praised Usyk for his ‘great strategy’ en route to dethroning Joshua.
Photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.

In a way, it seemed like Joshua made the decision to play chess against a chess grandmaster. He came back into the fight a bit in the middle rounds and looked good at times, but Usyk was always working and after eight rounds he stepped on the gas and pulled away. And that’s what he does, that’s what he’s able to do.

The way Usyk closed the fight in round 12 was also very impressive. I remember saying to him: “Come on, close out the show!” And he responded with a kind of animal scream as he went out for that last round – he was totally psyched up mentally to close the show in style. He wasn’t going to leave anything to chance with regards the scorecards.

As it turned out, although it wouldn’t have affected the overall result, if the British judge hadn’t scored the 12th for Usyk then his card would have shown a draw. All of which shows how right Usyk was to make sure he closed the show in style, which he did!

Another aspect of Usyk’s performance that was impressive was his defence. He made Joshua miss with a lot of punches. He was an elusive target and made it very difficult for Joshua to land the shots he wanted to land.

All in all it was a great fight and a great performance by Usyk. In terms of atmosphere and what was on the line, it’s a fight of the year contender for sure and Usyk also has a strong case to be named fighter of the year. It was a historic night and I can’t see how it’s possible for there to be a bigger event than this one for the rest of the year.

I don’t know if we can say for certain that Usyk is now the number one fighter in the world pound-for-pound, but he’s certainly one of the best. For me, pound-for-pound isn’t really about the results a fighter has under their belt but their ability to do certain things in the ring across all aspects of boxing, Usyk certainly showed that he can do that. Speed, defence, quality of punches, overall technique, Usyk has it all!

It’s hard to say if he’s number one or not but he’s certainly close and he’s certainly a great fighter. After all, he’s achieved something now that only Evander Holyfield has achieved before him in terms of becoming undisputed champion at cruiserweight and then winning unified titles at heavyweight.

Unsurprisingly, Usyk was very happy after the fight. He was very proud of his performance. He told me that there were only two times that Joshua hit him with a really solid shot and that he hadn’t been hurt by them and felt fine. He wasn’t bothered or fazed in the slightest.

That’s the sort of guy Usyk is. He doesn’t feel pressure. He has total confidence in his abilities and treats every fight as though it’s just another day at the office. He doesn’t make fights personal. For him, it’s sport and it’s business. And that’s one of the things I love about Usyk and one of the ways in which he shows his class.

I’m extremely proud that Usyk trusts me to wrap his hands and handle his cuts and I’m proud to call him a friend.

Russ Anber was talking to Luke G. Williams.

I’m also proud of the fact he is such a good sportsman and conducts himself in such a classy manner. Indeed, I left the stadium convinced that this contest is exactly what the sport of boxing is meant to be like. At times before and afterwards, Usyk and AJ conducted themselves with respect for each other and respect for how dangerous the sport is. They also fought in the same way – fucking hard but respectful. This was a scientific display of boxing and represented everything that is great about the sport.

I was also – I’ll admit – very proud that these two warriors who were involved in the biggest boxing event of the year both chose to wear gloves made by my company Rival. A bit like when Usyk won the Ali trophy in a fight during which both he and Murat Gassiev wore Rival gloves, so it was with this fight. That made me feel very pleased and very honoured.

Russ Anber is the founder/CEO of Rival Boxing, as well as a highly respected trainer (of both pros and amateurs), a gym owner, a cut-man, an entrepreneur, a broadcaster and one of the best hand wrappers in the boxing business. Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, Artur Beterbiev, Callum Smith and Michael Conlan are among the many top boxers Russ currently works with.