Oleksandr Usyk hits right notes with Ukrainian song at Anthony Joshua face-off

The rivals collide in Jeddah on Saturday.
Oleksandr Usyk hits right notes with Ukrainian song at Anthony Joshua face-off

By Duncan Bech, PA, Jeddah

Oleksandr Usyk performed a Ukrainian anthem about fighting for independence after warning Anthony Joshua he faces a continuation of the dismantling he endured in their first clash.

Dressed in a traditional Cossack outfit for Wednesday’s head-to-head press conference, the unified world champion remained on stage after he had faced off with Joshua to sing ‘Oi u luzi chervona kalyna’.

The 1875 call to arms was inspired by Ukraine’s 18th century battle for independence and is now intoned as a display of defiance in the face of Russia’s invasion.

Usyk served as a military volunteer in Kiev before being told he would better represent his nation by successfully defending the WBA, IBF and WBO titles he seized from Joshua almost a year ago.

The rivals collide in Jeddah on Saturday and the undefeated 35-year-old has told Joshua to expect more punishment from his fists.

“We learned a lot about each other in the first fight. He learned about me and I learned about him,” Usyk said.

“But this is not going to be a new bout, it’s going to be the last bout continued for rounds 13,14,15 – for however long it lasts. We’ve had enough time to study each other and Saturday will be a great, great fight.

“We were born to compete at life, for belts, for anything. The one who does not compete, does not live. All our lives are competitions – for anything, for someone – that’s why we’re competing.”

Both fighters thanked the Saudi Arabian dignitaries occupying the first two rows of seats for staging the fight, which is thought to have cost the country in the region of £80million.

Joshua has been in Jeddah for over a month and he shook hands with many of the VIPs on arrival, before the event started with the room standing for a rendition of the national anthem.

Since the rematch was confirmed in June, the 32-year-old has defended Matchroom’s controversial decision to sell the fight to Saudi Arabia in light of its dismal human rights record.

The Kingdom is accused of sportswashing to enhance its global reputation but when Joshua was asked if he was helping to sanitise the regime, he said: “Nah.

“The world’s in a bad place. I can’t just point one place out. If you want to point Saudi out, let’s point everyone out. We’ve all got to do better and that’s where my heart is. The whole world has got to do better if it wants to change.

“I feel like I bring light. Boxing is such a dark industry. There’s so much negativity, tearing each other down, and egos.

 

“I’m not really into that, I’m just trying to bring light to people. I’m not sure what change I can make, but I’m sure I can uplift the person on the street. I meet so many people through my job and I try to uplift them as individuals.

“I don’t know what I can do for the world, I’m not in politics. I can’t change the world but I can definitely help the person on the street and that’s what I do day-in day-out.”

In contrast to the colourful Usyk, Joshua cut a subdued figure three days out from the biggest fight of his life as he attempts to become a three-time world heavyweight champion.

“It’s a must-win. I like the pressure. I want to compete. You’ve got to have a competitive spirit,” Joshua said.

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