Oleksandr Usyk, Vasiliy Lomachenko, the Klitschkos and the fight for Ukraine

Oleksandr Usyk might well have been thinking about a rematch with Anthony Joshua last month, now he has a more important engagement as he defends Ukraine against the Russian invasion.

"It is my duty to fight, to defend my home, my family."

Ukrainian heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk has much more important things on his mind than his rematch with Anthony Joshua.

Usyk became the WBO, WBA, IBF and IBO heavyweight champion after defeating Joshua at Tottenham Hotspur's stadium in September 2021.

Joshua was outclassed by Usyk, with the scorecards reading 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113 in favour of the challenger.

Joshua quickly exercised the re-match clause and the second fight was scheduled for May, but Russia's invasion of Ukraine has put a huge question mark over the contest.

Quite simply, Usyk has his country to defend.

"I really don't know when I'm going to be stepping back in the ring," said Usyk to CNN. "My country and my honour are more important to me than a championship belt."

While the 35-year-old might well be expecting to enter his camp for the second showdown with Joshua, instead he is armed and ready to defend Ukraine.

Russian forces are continuing their assault on Ukraine from the north, south and east, which has forced around 1.4 million Ukrainians to flee the war-torn country.

But while some were preparing to depart the country, Usyk returned to his homeland after a visit to the U.K. to start promoting the rematch with Joshua.

Usyk, alongside his close friend Vasiliy Lomachenko and brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko are prepared to die for their country.

"If they will want to take my life, or the lives of my close ones, I will have to do it," he said. "But I don't want that. I don't want to shoot, I don't want to kill anybody, but if they will be killing me, I will have no choice," Usyk told CNN.

Usyk, who pocketed £3m, plus 40% of the PPV revenue from the first fight, was due for his biggest payday to date for the AJ rematch.

Instead though he remains in a Kyiv bomb shelter defending the city against the Russians led by Vladimir Putin.

Usyk has joined some other famous boxing names in defending their country.

Lomachenko

Lomachenko, 34, a three-weight champion, is also present defending Ukraine against Putin's 'special military operation'.

Olympic gold medallist Lomachenko was pictured armed and in military overalls after joining the Belgorod-Dnestrovsky Territorial Defense last week.

Lomachenko returned to Ukraine via Bucharest. And like Usyk, he also had a huge unification fight in his sights after reportedly agreeing to a clash with Australia's George Kambosos for the undisputed lightweight title.

The date of June 5, in Melbourne, had been pencilled in, but Lomachenko has a war to fight in his homeland.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Anthony Crolla, who was beaten by Lomachenko in April 2019, said: "The amount of courage that takes. It is no secret, you look at Lomachenko, Usyk and the Klitschkos, they have done very well out of boxing and they could probably be anywhere in the world living a good life.

"But I think it shows the true mark of a person when they are willing to go and put their country before all of that. You can only admire that."

The Klitschkos

Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, like their fighting counterparts, have also said they are "ready to die" for Ukraine.

Vitali is the mayor of Kyiv and has urged all Ukrainians take up arms and fight against Russian forces.

"We're not interested in how strong the Russian army is, we're ready to fight," he told CNN. "And we're ready to die for our home country and for our families, because it's our home. It's our future and somebody wants to come to our home and steal our future from us."

His brother Wladimir is also defiant in the face of a formidable enemy and earlier this month he enlisted in Ukraine's reserve army.

The former heavyweight champions are fighting a war of two fronts. Not only are they close to the frontline in Kyiv but they are also battling the information war.

Their huge social media following has allowed them to galvanize support for Ukraine and reach audiences that political leaders could never hope to.

While Russian forces targeted Ukraine's communication systems, according to the Ministry of Defence, the Klitschkos were rallying support for their country.

Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson, whose adoptive mother immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine, was recorded last month telling a group of Russian reporters to "get out of the Ukraine".

While a captured Russian soldier, who gave his name as Lt Col Astakhov Mikhailovich, said he felt 'shame' when he saw the Klitschkos, Usyk and Lomachenko urging their countrymen to fight the Russians.

The officer claims his compatriots had been 'brainwashed' into believing that Ukraine had been taken over by 'Nazis' and asked for 'mercy' for soldiers sent there by Putin.

"I personally, just when we entered this territory when I watched the address of the professional boxers, your boxers," the soldier told Ukrainian outlet unian.ua, via talkSPORT.

"Back home I always loved watching them, Usyk and Lomachenko, they are my favourites. I mean that when I say it.

"These people are just ready to take arms. They said 'we didn't call you here' and I feel shame that we came to this country."

Latest news