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Boxing is now ‘child’s play’: How Anthony Joshua’s opponent was ‘running around Kyiv with a machine gun’ months ago

This evening, the Ukrainian boxer will take on Anthony Joshua from the UK. He has been described by his “zero fear” personality and “joker-like” nature.

However, Oleksandr Usyk is a reigning champion of the unified world and has made it clear that he is serious about his country’s war. He will fight for his title tonight.

Who is Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn calling “a strange one?”


Rematch

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After beating Anthony Joshua on 25 September 2021, Usyk will now face Usyk in this second fight. He had previously won the right to compete for the WBO heavyweight title by defeating Briton.

He entered the fight as the reigning champion, prefight favourite. Joshua was outboxed by Usyk who won the unanimous judges decision.

The fight will take place in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), with . The bout will be shown on Sky Sports Box Office tonight, with the build-up starting at 6pm .

Image Anthony Joshua faces Oleksandr Uzyk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, September 2021


Defender Ukraine

Six months ago Usyk, who had joined the territorial defense battalion, was standing at the barricades of his country’s war against Russia.

He was in London at the time of Russia’s invasion and ran to get back to his country. He flew to Poland to meet his compatriots and friends to defend his homeland.

At the time, he told CNN that he was willing and able to die to defend Ukraine.

The network heard him say that his soul belonged to God and that my body and honour belonged to my country, my family. There is no fear.

Image: Oleksandr Uzyk (2ndR), in the ranks Kyiv’s territorial defense forces at the end February. Pic: Facebook/Ukraine Boxing Federation


Return to Boxing

He had already left his homeland to prepare for the rematch against Joshua by March’s end.

Although Usyk had won the first fight last year, a second battle was already agreed upon shortly thereafter. However, Usyk was reluctant to accept the fight after the war broke out.

In a video message on 29 March in which he spoke mostly Russian, he stated that he believes he could serve Ukraine better if he took part in the boxing match.

He said, “In this manner, I can help my nation more and better than I could by being in Territorial Defence while running around Kyiv carrying a machine gun.”


Klitschko’s support

Later, he revealed that he was encouraged by the Klitschko brothers who were former heavyweight world champions.

In an interview with Blockasset, Usyk said that some of his friends were missing. He also stated that boxing was “child’s play” compared to warfare.

He said that he decided to return to the ring after having spoken to Vitali Klitschko and Wladimir Kltschko. Mayor of Kyiv Vitali was at the time leading the defense of his city.

Image: Usyk claims he made the decision to return to the ring after speaking to Vitali Klitschko (pictured here in Kyiv, March). Pic: AP


‘Scary reflexes’

His “scary reflexes” have been described. He has been described as having “scary reflexes”. One of his tricks involves flicking four coins from his elbow simultaneously – and catching them all one by one.

This is why the 35-year old is the favorite of the bookies for tonight’s match, even though he is more than 10kg heavier than Joshua.


Proud dresser

He was amused by the crowd after arriving at a variety of pre-fight events wearing a range outfits that some compared to being a clown.

Image Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua during their news conference held at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, September 2021

He wore a dark green suit and dark shirt to his September fight weigh-in. Many compared him to Batman’s character The Joker.

He later explained that the Cossacks’ national costumes were modernized. They are an ethnic group that has lived in Ukraine for centuries.

Cossacks were great fighters, and they often fought alongside the armies of Russian or Polish empires.

He wore a unique outfit that harkened back to his Cossack ancestry at a news conference about the fight. It featured a dark brown sleeveless Tabard, wide belt, and a white shirt with an embroided trim.

He is often referred to as The Cossack.


With the help of Eeyore

Image: Usyk and an Eeyore toy during a news conference held in August

At one of his news conferences, Usyk disclosed that Eeyore, the Winnie the Pooh character, was one of his most important team members.

He claimed that he purchased a stuffed Eeyore doll for his daughter Elizabeth on a family trip at Euro Disney in Paris. She renamed the toy Liolia to reflect her girl name.

The boxer was then blessed with Liolia, and he went off to training camp. Since then, the toy has been his constant companion.

Reporters were told by Liolia that she was his “talisman”. He added: “It sleeps beside me, is always near to me. It might be afraid, but I don’t know if it will be in my corner Saturday night. She will be in my dressing area.”


He can sing (sorta)

He launched into song at the end of the prefight news conference. His rendition of “Oy U Luzi Chervona Kalyna”, a folk song, was the first. Rubryka.com claims that this song has become a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s military aggression.

Image Usyk sings at the pre-fight news conference held on Wednesday


The oseledets

Joshua wore the ubiquitous shaved-head wig when he last fought him.

However, in his pre-fight events, he was pleased to wear a long, single lock. Some have compared it to a ponytail, but it is actually a nod to his Ukrainian heritage.

The Ukrainian Cossacks are often associated with the oseledets (or chub) hairstyle. It dates back to the Middle Ages when it was copied frequently by soldiers from other countries who sought to gain some of the fame with which Ukrainian mercenaries were held.

Over the centuries, the long central strip that was braided or tied in topknots has seen many revivals in connection with Ukrainian nationalism.

Image Usyk sporting his chub hairstyle at a media event held on 15 August


Multi weight

He boxed at cruiserweight until 2019, depending on which supervising organization. This is despite having previously won the Olympic heavyweight medal in London.

He is only fourth male boxer to hold simultaneously the WBA, WBC and IBF titles. He is also the first Ukrainian champion at cruiserweight, something that neither Klitschko brothers were able to do.


Born in Crimea

Although his parents hail from Ukraine, Usyk was actually born in Crimea during the Soviet Union.

His father, Sumy, was a soldier in the Soviet army of Afghanistan. He then became a security guard. His mother moved to Simferopol to continue her studies, where she met Usyk, who grew up.

He was also a skilled footballer, and trained at the local academy SC Tavriya Simferopol up to he was 15.

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