Usyk retained his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight titles with a split-decision victory over Britain’s Joshua, who fared better in the rematch but proved unable to separate the champions in an absorbing 12-round contest.
“It’s really hard for me to say that I’m proud of myself. I’m upset, really, deep down in my heart,” Joshua told reporters.
“I tried a different style… In the last fight I wanted to compete as a boxer, but it wasn’t good enough, and tonight wasn’t good enough.”
Joshua threw Usik’s two belts down after the final bell before exiting the ring, only to return later and deliver a passionate speech.
“When you try and work from your heart, not everyone is going to understand,” Joshua explained. “It was just from the heart. I knew I was mad at myself. Not at anyone, just myself. I was like I have to get out of here because I’m crazy.”
“You can do stupid things when you’re angry. Then I realized it was game. I came back and did the right thing.”
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn brushed off speculation that retirement could be around the corner for the 32-year-old, who has only fought Usyk since last year.
“I am a fighter for life. She never dies of hunger. Fighter for life,” said Joshua.