Olexsandr Usyk vows to beat Anthony Joshua for Ukraine war heroes in rematch in Saudi Arabia
Oleksandr Usyk has first spoken about fighting for Ukraine and also against Anthony Joshua, but he is still stunned when his children question him about the war.
“My children ask why they want to kill us?” says the national hero, who dethroned Joshua as world heavyweight champion before taking up arms against Russia.
“I don’t know what to tell them.”
He’s also stunned when asked how the trauma of fighting Vladimir Putin’s invasion affected this captivating character—and his quirky one-line quips.
“Sometimes I just force myself to smile,” he says. “Sometimes I force myself to sing. I can not explain.’
Oleksandr Usyk (above) has vowed to beat Anthony Joshua for Ukrainian war heroes
The Ukrainian star stunned Joshua with an outstanding performance in their first fight in September
What he can quantify is how he was persuaded to leave his post in the Kiev defense force to face Joshua in their overdue rematch.
Driving through London on August 20 on his way to that engagement in Saudi Arabia, Usyk said of that heartbreaking decision: “I didn’t want to leave my city. I really didn’t want to leave my country. But when I went to the hospitals where our wounded soldiers are being rehabilitated, they told me to go. Go fight this battle, not only for your pride, but also for Ukraine. You will do even more for our country by fighting in the ring than fighting here.
“So now I want to bring some kind of joy to those soldiers and to those who stay on the front lines by doing what I’m doing.” Then he reveals: “Immediately after defending my titles against Joshua, I plan to return to Kiev. I must be in my country..’
Usyk wears a yellow and blue shirt with the logo: ‘Colors Of Freedom’
President Zelensky and the two Klitsckho brothers who preceded him to take the world heavyweight title to Ukraine have endorsed permission to say goodbye to the action, one of whom is now mayor of Kiev.
The significance of his boxing to their global propaganda efforts becomes even clearer when Usyk himself says, “If I return there, no one will allow me to go to the front lines.”
The main reason for this is the firm expectation that if he beats Joshua for the second time, he will be back on the road for an even bigger fight in front of a global audience against Tyson Fury, to decide which of them becomes the first undisputed world heavyweight. champion since Lennox Lewis.
Although Fury is sending mixed messages about his return from rushed and premature retirement, he has been known to be involved in financially sky-high negotiations to fight the winner of Usyk-Joshua 11.
And Usyk now confirms, “Oh, I know we’re going to fight each other.” Probably back in Saudi Arabia in December.
All of this helps alleviate his acute dilemma as a high-profile individual who was born in Crimea when that peninsula was still part of the Soviet Union, whose first language is Russian, which only transitioned to Ukrainian citizenship after the invasion.
Usyk was persuaded to leave his post in the Kiev defense force to take on Joshua’s rematch
Last but not least this hope that he won’t have to shoot a Russian soldier: ‘Every day I was on patrol, I prayed God, please don’t let anyone try to kill me. But I also pray that God will please not allow me to shoot another human being. What I knew I should do when I felt my life was in danger, my family’s life in danger, and there was a danger that everything I’ve accomplished in my life could disappear in one second.”
His position was so difficult that some time after Putin annexed Crimea, he averted political questions by simply saying, “The Crimea belongs to God.” That, a further reflection of his deep Christian faith.
Now, for this visit to London, he is wearing a yellow and blue shirt with the logo on it: ‘Colors Of Freedom’. And he has this to say about Russia’s view of the war: “I don’t trust a word they say. What they say there on TV is not the truth. They show themselves the bombing of battalions of soldiers, but they don’t show the bombing of civilians in their homes and in that shopping center they attacked recently.”
Usyk’s own house has been attacked and occupied. He says: ‘Russian soldiers broke in. They caused damage to create living space and stayed there for several days.’
Usyk returns to Ukraine after defending his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles
Fortunately, that came after not only he, but also his family left Ukraine, although he adds, “I hope I can return to my country, my city, my home.”
Meanwhile, he “keeps in touch almost hourly with all my friends who live there and some of them fight to know if they’re okay.” That dialogue continues through text messages flooding his phone during this interview.
Still, he strives to separate the battlefield from the prize ring, saying: ‘It would be crazy to motivate myself for a boxing match by what’s happening in Ukraine. When it comes to my professional preparation and this fight as part of my goal to become the undisputed heavyweight champion, I cannot be distracted. Although I will follow everything that happens every day until the fight, I work hard. The only real change in my routine is that my wife and children currently live in several places outside of Ukraine.
“I hear Joshua say he will be different, more aggressive and more physical than in our first fight. Well, I wasn’t surprised how (passively) he boxed in London and he won’t surprise me this time either. But maybe I’ll be different too.’
Usyk never lived to excess. He explains: ‘I do have nice watches, a nice car, the nice ring I got when I married my wife. But all the other jewelry I wear is religious and I don’t need any more possessions. My wife and children are my diamonds. I like the simple life.’
One where he prays to God that he and his family will return once Putin’s war is over.