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Usyk vs Joshua 2: Oleksandr Usyk intends to return to Ukraine following Anthony Joshua rematch

Oleksandr Usyk says he didn’t want to leave his country during this time of conflict, but was encouraged to defend his belts by his countrymen.

Usyk speaks to the media during their a press conference for the rematch.
Usyk speaks to the media during their a press conference for the rematch.
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images
Wil Esco is an assistant editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2014.

Although unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk is set to defend his world titles on August 20 when he rematches Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia, Usyk makes clear that he really had no intention to depart Ukraine during the ongoing war with Russia. Usyk still has lots of close friends in the country and says he continues to regularly communicate with them to check on their well-being.

In the meanwhile, however, he’s in the midst of training for this contracted rematch with Joshua, but still says he fully intends to return to the Ukraine immediately after the fight is dealt with.

“I don’t want to leave the country [forever]. I really don’t want to leave the country. I want to live there, and right after the fight I’m preparing, I’m going to go back to Ukraine. I really didn’t want to leave our country. ... At one point I went to the hospital where soldiers were wounded and getting rehabilitation from the war and they were telling me, asking me to go, to [box], to fight for the country, fight for your pride and if you’re going to go there, you’re even going to help more for our country instead of it being here and fighting inside of our country.”

Usyk would continue by saying that he doesn’t intend to fight in the Ukrainian military when he does return home after previously serving in a territorial defense battalion, so that shouldn’t stand in the way of the possibility of staging an undisputed heavyweight title unification with Tyson Fury should everything go his way here.

Even still, there’s plenty going on outside of the ring right now which adds an additional layer of stress and uncertainty on top of the physical rigors of a championship level training camp. But for Usyk, all he can do is try to force a smile or song in an attempt to keep his spirits up.

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