Oleksandr Usyk leaving Ukraine to train for Anthony Joshua rematch

The heavyweight champion has been aiding his nation’s defence against the Russian invasion but will now prepare to defend the titles that he won from ‘AJ’ last year

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Friday 25 March 2022 17:29
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Anthony Joshua reflects on Oleksandr Usyk loss and previews rematch
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Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk will go head-to-head for the second time after the Ukrainian confirmed that he will leave his home country to begin preparations for a rematch.

Joshua lost the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight titles to Usyk in September, when he suffered a comprehensive decision defeat by the undefeated southpaw at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“AJ” (24-2, 22 knockouts) quickly triggered a rematch clause to take on Usyk again, although a step-aside deal was proposed in January, which would have allowed Usyk to face WBC champion Tyson Fury in a unification bout. The deal reportedly fell through due to Joshua’s monetary demands, with the 32-year-old keen on avenging his loss to 35-year-old Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs).

The rematch seemed set for spring, but a further complication arose this month when Usyk returned to Ukraine to aid his nation in its defence against the ongoing Russian invasion. The champion was this week granted permission to leave the country to train for a second bout with Joshua, however.

On Friday, Usyk shared a video on his Instagram page in which he updated his followers on the situation, also writing: “I decided to start preparing for a rematch with Anthony Joshua, a large number of my friends support me, all the rest of the good and peace, Thank God for everything.”

Usyk’s compatriot Vasiliy Lomachenko, a former lightweight champion, similarly returned to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion. The 34-year-old will remain in the country for the foreseeable future, instead of challenging George Kambosos Jr for the WBA, WBO and IBF belts. Brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko – the latter of whom is mayor of Kyiv – have also been aiding their native Ukraine’s war effort. Both were heavyweight boxing champions before their respective retirements.

In outpointing Joshua, former undisputed cruiserweight champion Usyk handed the Briton the second loss of his professional career. In 2019, Joshua was stopped by Andy Ruiz Jr in a title fight in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, but “AJ” regained the belts in December of the same year with a decision win against Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia.

Usyk returned to his home country amid its invasion by Russia

Meanwhile, Usyk moved up to heavyweight in 2019, finishing Chazz Witherspoon in seven rounds. The southpaw then outpointed Derek Chisora in 2020, before winning his contest with Joshua last September.

The victor of Joshua and Usyk’s rematch is expected to face Fury with all the major heavyweight titles on the line, unless the “Gypsy King” loses his WBC belt to fellow Briton Dillian Whyte in his next outing.

In December, the undefeated Fury was ordered to defend the gold against mandatory challenger and interim champion Whyte, whom he will face on 23 April at Wembley Stadium.

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