Quick Bit: As Oleksandr Usyk prepares to fight Anthony Joshua again, The Sporting News looks at how the conflict in Ukraine has impacted the unbeaten champion.
Oleksandr Usyk has endured a build-up to his rematch with Anthony Joshua that has earned an outpouring of sympathy and support for the heavyweight boxing champion.
In February, while Usyk’s camp was in negotiations for his second fight against the Londoner, Russia started its attack on his homeland of Ukraine.
Usyk will return to the ring for the first time since the invasion began when he fights Joshua in Jeddah on August 20.
What part has Usyk played in the conflict? Here’s how the situation has affected the 2012 Olympic champion.
Did Oleksandr Usyk fight in the Russia-Ukraine war?
Football fan Usyk was in London, where he had dethroned Joshua on points at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium the previous September, to watch Chelsea beat Lille in the Champions League two days before Russia invaded Ukraine.
The patriotic 35-year-old returned to his country and joined the territorial defence force, being pictured alongside his countrymen while carrying a gun.
Martial law had been swiftly imposed in Ukraine, requiring adult men to stay put and defend their nation.
Usyk was one of the athletes, which included the Ukraine national football team who took part in World Cup qualifiers abroad, who were ultimately granted special dispensation to leave Ukraine.
The former cruiserweight king initially trained in Poland and has also been pictured sparring in Dubai ahead of the most high-profile fight of his career, which could earn him around ?100 million ($122.5m).
What has Usyk said about the war?
Usyk was inevitably asked about the situation in Ukraine during his most recent round of press conferences with Joshua.
“My friends — people close to me — have died in the war,” he said, dismissing a suggestion that it would give him extra motivation to beat Joshua again.
“When so many people are suffering, I don’t have any idea how it can influence anything positively.
“I was there for one month: I saw with my own eyes what happened there, rockets flying and fighter jets flying. It’s horrible.
“Every day I was there, I was praying and asking: ‘Please, God, don’t let anybody try to kill me. Please don’t let anybody shoot me. And please don’t make me shoot any other person.’
“I really didn’t want to leave our country. I didn’t want to leave our city. At one point, I went to the hospital where soldiers were wounded and getting rehabilitation and they asked me to go, to fight [Joshua] for the country.
“They said: ‘If you go there, you’re going to help our country even more instead of fighting inside Ukraine.'”
Usyk admitted he has struggled to answer questions from his children about Ukraine’s plight.
“My family is not in Ukraine but a lot of my close friends are still in the country,” he said. “I’m in touch with them every day.
“I ask them, because it’s very important for me, how they are feeling. Are they in a safe place? I want to live there and right after the fight I’m going back to Ukraine.”
Which boxers have been involved in the Russia-Ukraine war?
As the mayor of Kiev for the past eight years, Vitali Klitschko is the best-known boxer involved in the conflict.
Hall-of-famer Klitschko warned of the threat he perceived for months before the invasion began, joining Ukraine’s reserves in early February and repeatedly urging Russia to relent on social media.
Klitschko’s younger brother and fellow ex-champion, Wladimir, has followed suit. Joshua has been in contact with the 46-year-old, whom he knocked out at the end of an epic title fight at Wembley Stadium in April 2017, to offer support.
Three-weight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko had been due to face George Kambosos Jr in a title fight this year.
Instead, the revered pound-for-pound top-ranked lightweight stayed in Ukraine to be part of his country’s forces.
Originally found on Sporting News Read More