Usyk leaves Ukraine, preparing for rematch with Joshua

LONDON (AP) — World heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk is preparing for a rematch with Anthony Joshua after leaving his native Ukraine, where he was helping his country in the war with Russia.

Usyk “is already in Europe” to start training for a second fight with Joshua that could take place in June, the champion’s promoter, Alexander Krassyuk, said.

Krassyuk said locations for the fight are being discussed.

“Late June is also the timing we are considering now,” he told Sky Sports late Monday.

“Many things will depend on how fast we manage to ink the papers.”

Saudi Arabia is reportedly one of the places looking to host the fight. Joshua regained his WBA, IBF and WBO belts by beating Andy Ruiz Jr. in the kingdom in December 2019, only for the British fighter to lose them last September by unanimous decision after being outboxed by Usyk in London.

The rematch was expected to take place in the spring but has been disrupted by the war.

The 35-year-old Usyk returned to Kyiv in February to help defend Ukraine from the invading Russians. He was pictured carrying an automatic rifle, flanked by three other armed men in the Kyiv Territorial Defense force.

Usyk said he had the support of his friends and family in his bid to return to the ring and beat Joshua for a second time.

“In this way, I can help my country more and better than I would by being in the Territorial Defense and running around Kyiv with a machine gun,” he said in a video message on Instagram in which he spoke mostly in Russian.

Usyk, who made the step up from cruiserweight where he was the unified world champion, is from Crimea and chose to stay with Ukraine after Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014.

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