Oleksandr Usyk’s trip out of Ukraine has taken him via Hungary and the Czech Republic with top officials wanting him to fight
OLEKSANDR USYK’s journey from the Ukrainian frontline to the Jeddah desert and his rematch with Anthony Joshua can be revealed by SunSport.
The 35-year-old London 2012 Olympic champion returned to the capital last September to dethrone fellow golden boy AJ of his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles.
But even before he could sign the rematch contract, during a February trip to the UK, his country was plunged into war against Vladimir Putin’s invaders.
With the help of a source inside the 19-0 Freedom Fighters camp, we can reveal the emotional and physical journey Usyk went on to defend more than just his titles on August 20.
Usyk left his home for London on February 21 on business, but knew he had to be back on the 24th for his daughter Yelizaveta’s birthday.
He traveled to London to watch Chelsea’s 2-0 Champions League win over Lille on the 22nd, then to a gymnasium in Sheffield to shoot a video game on the 23rd.
But on the morning of the 24th, the first rockets and bombs exploded in Kyiv, and all air travel and connections were halted.
Knowing that he had a house full of guests, friends and associates from all over Ukraine for his family celebrations, Usyk hatched a plan to return.
He took a Eurostar to Brussels, then a train to Poland, then came to the Ukrainian border to cross as a pedestrian.
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But the authorities did not let him pass as a pedestrian. Luckily he met another Ukrainian passing in his car, so they loaded into his vehicle and moved on.
It took him about two days to get home, with the drive from the border to his home just ten hours.
TAKE UP ARMS
On February 28, Usyk was already defending his people with a machine gun over his shoulder.
He joined the Kyiv Territorial Defense military group to defend the area where he and his family live, and together with his friends they formed a group to defend their territory.
Our source revealed, “He had a machine gun, like everyone else in the group. He was loaded but he prayed every day that he would stay quiet so he never had to shoot.
“Fortunately, God heard his prayers and he never had to.
“But another house he used to live in was attacked and occupied by Russians.”
Usyk stayed in the basement of his house, with all the guests who had come to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.
He lost about 22 pounds of weight during his time too stressed to train or eat well.
FIGHT OR ESCAPE
Around March 25 – after nearly a month of life and death in hiding and patrolling – Usyk took to social media to confirm, after deep soul-searching, that rematch was agreed and he would quit. Kyiv.
The budding Hollywood actor was against leaving Ukraine and therefore asked his wife Yekaterina to leave and take their children to a safe place. She said she would never leave Ukraine without him.
Usyk’s devotion to his country didn’t let him go instantly, so he stayed a few more weeks and spent time with the military guards and his friends on the front line.
He met them and talked to them and visited hospitals with the wounded soldiers.
But Ukraine’s brightest minds and most powerful voices finally convinced him that he could do more on the world sports stage than on the front lines.
He spoke to many powerful people and they all advised him to return to boxing. His team then officially asked the sports minister to allow Usyk and his team to leave the country and start his training camp.
They received this official permission from Sports Minister Vadym Gutzeit after talking to President and Prime Minister Zelensky and they all confirmed that Usyk should go and represent Ukraine on the world stage.
HUNGARY FOR SUCCESS
Usyk and his small, dedicated team met in western Ukraine and crossed the Hungarian border and stayed in Budapest for one night. Then they moved to the Czech Republic.
Despite reports, the convoy never crossed the Polish border and never stayed in Poland.
Usyk’s team stayed in the Czech Republic for about two weeks, starting his training camp there with Polissya Zhytomyr, the football team for which he made his debut in a friendly match on February 4.
When the fight was confirmed, the group traveled by car and plane to Dubai and settled into the Box IQ gymnasium where they hope to acclimatize faster and better than AJ, who remains in Loughborough.
STATE OF EMERGENCY AND MIND
Usyk looked refueled and powerful during media events in Jeddah last week. He won their confrontation at the press conference, forcing AJ to break their gaze first.
The Maverick danced in the mock ring right in front of Joshua, while filming a promo, then threw more shapes with the fans in the ring.
The champion, we are told, is back to his terrifying best and already has WBC champion Tyson Fury on his mind occupied.
Our insider said: “It’s true that Usyk lost a lot of weight, but most Ukrainians lost a lot of weight at the start of the war because you can’t go hungry sitting in a basement outside. shelter from explosions.
“After we moved to his training camp, he was completely focused on his objection to fighting and beating AJ in the rematch.
“The team has been working on his physical and mental health and you could see during the press conference that he is perfectly fine and that his mental and physical health is at a high level. His condition and his motivation are the best possible.
“He’s set to defend his titles and status as the unified heavyweight champion and then moved on to become the undisputed champion.
“He will go down in history as the first man to go undisputed at heavyweight and heavyweight, in the era of the four belts.”
It will be a story.
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