Oleksandr Usyk admits he has no idea when he will set foot in a professional boxing ring again, but he says his pride, his family and his country mean more than any belts.
The Ukrainian superstar is back home fighting alongside his countrymen in a very different battle, against Vladimir Putin’s Russian invasion.
Last week seems so long ago now, when Usyk was in the UK discussing details around his proposed rematch with Anthony Joshua – which had been expected to take place in late May or June. But then Russia invaded Ukraine, and everything changed.
Usyk on next fight
“I really don’t know when I’m going to be stepping back in the ring. My country and my pride are more important to me than a belt,” the 35-year-old told CNN.
Usyk knows the challenge facing him and his country right now is like no other. And it means he will do anything to protect his loved ones.
“If they will want to take my life, or the lives of my close ones, I will have to do it. 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.”
While Usyk says he has no fear of what will happen next, he admits he is completely perplexed that something like this can happen in allegedly modern times.
Maybe, it’ll sound sentimental, but my soul belongs to the Lord and my body and my honour belong to my country, to my family. So there is no fear, absolutely no fear. There’s just bafflement – how could this be in the 21st century?”
Heavyweight title picture
Usyk of course remains unbeaten as a professional at 19-0 and holds the IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight titles courtesy of that peerless performance to dethrone Joshua at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September.
A win over AJ in the rematch would likely set up Usyk for a potential unification showdown vs the winner of Tyson Fury vs Dillian Whyte. They meet at Wembley Stadium on April 23 with Fury’s WBC, Ring magazine and lineal titles on the line.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn meanwhile said his side remains committed to the rematch with Usyk, and they will give Usyk the time he needs before moving forward in the future. Hearn admitted an interim fight is possible for AJ.