- Ukraine boxer Oleksandr Usyk returns to the ring August 20 for his rematch against Anthony Joshua.
- He has the support of an unlikely ally — Russia’s former boxing star Alexander Povetkin.
- Usyk took up arms earlier this year to help his country try and ward off Russian aggression.
Ukraine’s boxing hero Oleksandr Usyk has an unlikely ally heading into his August 20 heavyweight rematch against Anthony Joshua at the Jeddah Superdome in Saudi Arabia.
Heading into the high-stakes clash, Usyk has picked up support from Alexander Povetkin — a Russian athlete who fought and lost to modern-day greats like Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko.
“I will root for Usyk. In the first fight, he did everything right, did not miss,” Povetkin told Match TV, according to Russian newspaper Sovetsky Sport.
“The only thing here is if Joshua changes something in his preparation and plan, then something may be different. And so, I think that Usyk should win.”
The rivals fought once before in September 2021, with Usyk wresting all of Joshua’s belts away from his waist with a sublime performance in which he bamboozled the Brit in the first and final thirds of the fight.
The upcoming do-over is a mandated rematch per contract stipulations that was delayed until August because of disagreements over fight dates and broadcaster. The event still lacks a US broadcast.
Usyk put his boxing career on pause to fight in the war
Usyk is a hero in his home country as he won Olympic gold in 2012, as well as unifying championship belts at cruiserweight and heavyweight.
In February, he joined the Kyiv Territorial Defense just days after Russia invaded Ukraine.
In one photo from the time, he can be seen holding a rifle:
Usyk is one of two Ukrainian fighters who are leaving the war with Russia to compete in boxing’s biggest bouts.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko (also a former boxer) even tasked 35-year-old Usyk with delivering a “special” message in the build-up to his showdown with Joshua.
Since then, he’s spoken about the harsh realities of war.
Usyk prayed to God he wouldn’t have to kill anyone
While Usyk participated in Ukraine’s effort to end Russia’s invasion, he routinely prayed.
“Every day I was there, I was praying and asking: ‘Please, God, don’t let anybody try to kill me’,” he told the Guardian.
“Please don’t let anybody shoot me. And please don’t make me shoot any other person.”
He also said injured Ukraine soldiers implored him to fight Joshua as it would help shine a spotlight on Ukraine’s troubles.
“They asked me to go, to fight, to fight for the country,” Usyk told the Guardian. “They said if you go there, you’re going to help our country even more instead of fighting inside Ukraine.”