The Ukrainian boxer who defeated the UK’s Anthony Joshua in an exciting rematch has been described as having “zero fear” and being like the “joker”.
Yet, with a warfare raging in his house nation Oleksandr Usyk, the reigning unified world champion, made it clear he was lethal severe and was preventing for his nation when he defended his titles throughout the bout in Saudi Arabia.
So, who is the man described by Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn as “a strange one”?
This was Usyk’s second struggle against Anthony Joshua after he beat the Briton on 25 September 2021 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, having gained the proper to problem him for the WBO heavyweight belt by securing his earlier victory.
Even although he entered the bout as the reigning champion and pre-fight favorite, Joshua was outboxed with Usyk profitable the judges choice unanimously.
This time, the pair squared off in Jeddah, with the bout proven on Sky Sports Box Office on Saturday night time.
Less than six months in the past, Usyk was manning the barricades in his house nation’s warfare with Russia, having joined the territorial defence battalion.
He had been in London when Russia invaded and rushed again, flying to Poland and driving the remainder of the manner, to affix his pals and compatriots to guard his homeland.
He informed CNN at the time he was keen to kill to defend Ukraine and had no worry of dying.
He informed the community: “My soul belongs to the Lord and my body and my honour belong to my country, to my family. So there is no fear, absolutely no fear.”
Return to boxing
By the finish of March, nevertheless, he had left his native nation to be able to put together for his rematch with Joshua.
A second struggle had already been agreed quickly after he gained the first final 12 months, however Usyk had been reluctant after the warfare broke out.
Yet, in a video message through which he spoke principally Russian on 29 March, he mentioned he believed he would serve Ukraine higher by participating in the upcoming boxing match.
“In this way, I can Help my country more and better than I would by being in the Territorial Defence and running around Kyiv with a machine gun,” he mentioned.
He later revealed he had been inspired in his choice to coach for the struggle by the Klitschko brothers, former heavyweight world champions themselves.
Usyk revealed in an interview with his sponsor Blockasset that a few of his pals had been lacking and he seen boxing as “child’s play”, in comparison with warfare.
But he mentioned that after talking to Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, he had determined to return to the ring. At the time, mayor of Kyiv Vitali had been main the defence of his metropolis.
He has been described as having “scary reflexes”. One of his methods is to flick 4 cash up from his elbow at the identical time – and catch all of them one after the other.
It is one among the causes the 35-year-old is the bookies’ favorite for the match tonight, regardless of weighing in additional than 10kg lighter than Joshua.
There was widespread amusement after he turned as much as quite a lot of pre-fight occasions in a spread of outfits which some have likened to wanting like a clown.
At his weigh in for the September struggle, he wore a crimson swimsuit, darkish inexperienced shirt, black and gold verify tie and a mustard waistcoat, which many mentioned left him wanting like the Batman character The Joker.
But he later revealed that they had been a contemporary interpretation of the nationwide costume of the Cossacks, an ethnic group who have lived in what is now Ukraine for hundreds of years.
Cossacks had been formidable fighters and sometimes made up the ranks of the armies of Russian and Polish empires.
At a information convention for the upcoming struggle, he wore a unique outfit reminiscent of his Cossack ancestry, that includes a darkish brown sleeveless tabard, broad belt and a white shirt with an embroidered trim.
He is now usually nicknamed The Cossack.
The Help of Eeyore
Usyk revealed at one among his information conferences that one among his most vital workforce members was the Winnie the Pooh character Eeyore.
He mentioned he purchased a stuffed Eeyore toy for his daughter Elizabeth throughout a household journey to Disneyland Paris and she or he renamed it Liolia, a woman’s title.
She then introduced Liolia to the boxer for good luck earlier than he headed off to coaching camp and the toy has been by his aspect ever since.
He informed reporters Liolia was his “talisman”, including: “It sleeps with me, is always close to me. I’m not sure about it being in my corner on Saturday night… she might be scared! But she will definitely be in my dressing room.”
He can sing (form of)
At the finish of the pre-fight information convention, he launched into music, with a rendition of the folks music “Oy U Luzi Chervona Kalyna”, which Rubryka.com says has develop into one among the symbols of Ukraine’s resistance against Russia’s army aggression.
When he final fought Joshua, he sported the shaved head ubiquitous throughout the boxing and martial arts world.
But in his most up-to-date pre-fight occasions, he was completely happy to be seen carrying an extended single lock, which some have likened to a pony tail, however is the truth is one other nod to his Ukrainian heritage.
The oseledets, or chub, coiffure is generally related to Ukrainian Cossacks, going again to the early Middle Ages when it was ceaselessly copied by warriors from different nations who needed to seize a few of the notoriety with which Ukrainian mercenaries had been held.
The lengthy central strip which was usually braided or tied in a topknot has undergone quite a lot of revivals over the centuries in affiliation with Ukrainian nationalism.
Until 2019, he boxed at cruiserweight, one or two weight ranges down from heavyweight (relying on the supervising organisation), regardless that he had beforehand gained the Olympic heavyweight gold medal, earlier than the begin of his skilled profession, in the London Olympics.
He is solely the fourth male boxer in historical past to concurrently maintain the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO titles and is the first Ukrainian to be an undisputed champion (at cruiserweight), one thing neither of the Klitschko brothers achieved, primarily as a result of they didn’t need to struggle one another.
Raised in Crimea
While his dad and mom are initially from northern Ukraine, Usyk was born in Crimea – now below Russian occupation – whereas it was nonetheless a part of the Soviet Union.
His father was from Sumy and fought with the Soviet military in Afghanistan earlier than changing into a safety guard and his mom had moved to Simferopol to review, the place they met, and Usyk grew up.
He was additionally a proficient footballer and educated at the academy native workforce SC Tavriya Simferopol till he was 15.