By: Sean Crose
Heavyweight multitilist Oleksandr Usyk returned to his Ukrainian homeland after Russian military forces invaded it several weeks ago. “It’s my duty to defend my home, my family,” the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titlist said. “It’s not that I want to fight somewhere on the front line. I’m defending my home. I’m defending my wife, my children, my close ones.” As the war has dragged on, Usyk has reportedly made the decision to (temporarily at least) leave Ukraine’s “Kyiv Territorial Defense” in order to train for a rematch with former titlist Anthony Joshua, who Usyk dethroned last year. According to the Daily Mail, the 35 year old “has departed Ukraine to begin preparations for his heavyweight rematch with Anthony Joshua this summer.”
ESPN reports that Usyk has been granted permission from his government to leave Ukraine for the second Joshua fight, though other outlets have stated Usyk needed no such permission. Per the BBC: “Usyk will now begin his training camp but, contrary to some reports, the BBC understands the camp is not in neighboring Poland.” These recent developments have given credence to recent comments given by Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn. “Is AJ vs Usyk happening now?,” Hearn has asked rhetorically. “I actually think it will…I actually think that fight will happen next and it will happen in June.” With that in mind, nothing has been set in writing. In fact, as of press time, no official announcement has been made.
The highly skilled Usyk surprised a considerable amount of people last year when he deftly outboxed defending titlist Joshua in Britain. By pulling off the upset win, the former undisputed cruiserweight champion threw a spoke in the wheel of plans for Joshua to fight WBC titlist Tyson Fury for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world in the near future. Fortunately for Joshua, however, a rematch with Usyk was in order. Then came the start of the bloody invasion of the Ukraine. Yet, if reports are true, Usyk-Joshua 2 is still a go.
Usyk hasn’t been the only fighter of note to recently decide to defend Ukraine. Former lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko has also returned to the country in order to the join in the national defense. The man known as Loma is said to have passed on a fight with titlist George Kambosos in order to remain in Ukraine. Then, of course, there are the Klitschko brothers. Former heavyweight titlists both, the Klitschkos are fully engaged in the war with Russia. Younger brother Wladimir is regularly posting on social media about his country’s struggles, while older brother Vitali is the mayor of Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev.
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