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Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk fighting to ‘save my soul’ in Anthony Joshua rematch in August after battling invasion


Anthony Joshua during a press conference before his upcoming fight. Photo: PA

Anthony Joshua during a press conference before his upcoming fight. Photo: PA

Anthony Joshua during a press conference before his upcoming fight. Photo: PA

Oleksandr Usyk has said he is fighting to ‘save’ his ‘soul’ in his rematch with Anthony Joshua in August.

Usyk comprehensively outpointed Joshua in London last September to win the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight titles, and the unbeaten Ukrainian will now defend the belts against the Briton in Jeddah this summer.

The Olympic gold medalists faced off at a press conference in Saudi Arabia last week before speaking in London this week.

Their 20 August clash will take place approximately three months after the initially proposed spring date, due to Usyk having returned to Ukraine in February to aid his nation’s defence against the ongoing Russian invasion.

“I’m not fighting for money or recognition – I don’t need this,” Usyk said on Wednesday. “I don’t need to become the greatest, I’m just doing my job now and will continue doing it as long as my heart is beating.

“The only thing I’m on my way to is to save my soul. Everything else is just life.

“I do understand that [Joshua] gonna be different, so will I.”

Usyk, 35, is a former undisputed cruiserweight champion – the only man to have held that status in the four-belt era.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Joshua outlined the difficulty of fighting a southpaw like Usyk, while also discussing his mindset ahead of the rematch.

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“Listen, it’s a rough and tough sport, especially fighting these lefties; they’re a nightmare,” Joshua said. “But it is what it is, isn’t it? You’ve gotta dig deep, tuck up, and not make the same mistake twice [...] Twelve rounds in the bank is good, good footage to watch, but every fight is different.

“No matter how many videos you’ve watched, how many staredowns you’ve had, no matter how many press conferences you’ve done, it’s just completely different in the ring. Twelve rounds is good, but you can’t take too much away from it. You’ve got to be in the moment; what happened then is in the past, I don’t really live in the past.

“I’ll be looking forward to competing round by round. If I follow my As, Bs and Cs, it should lead me to KO.”

In his bid to hand Usyk the first loss of the Ukrainian’s professional career, Joshua has added Robert Garcia to his coaching set-up, while the Briton’s long-time trainer Rob McCracken has stepped away from the team – for the time being, at least.

“Robert Garcia’s a good man,” said Joshua, 33. “Straight after the [first fight with Usyk], I spent time in America. It’s something I should have done early in my career. So, young fighters coming up: Go to the States, get out there, travel.

“Branching out has been good with Robert Garcia. Shoutout to Rob McCracken and all the team up there as well, I respect him and everything that we’ve achieved, so there’s no love lost.

“But I need to make some sort of important decisions for myself as well. Yeah, it’s new, it’s something different, but the objective is the same: to win a fight, to look at your opponent and take something away from them, a bit of their spirit when you’re in the ring.”

Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn said his fighter is ‘desperate’ for victory in this ‘must-win’ fight, and “AJ” answered affirmatively.

“I’m definitely desperate to get my hands on [the titles],” Joshua said. “Less talk, more action. Let me get in there and do my job.

“I’m not a comedian, I’m not someone who writes speeches... I’m definitely hungry, definitely desperate, but at the end of the day, how I perform will speak volumes to the masses.”

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