Oleksandr Usyk was left questioning ‘what the hell he was doing’ after a few torrid sparring sessions ahead of his second fight with Anthony Joshua.
Usyk prepares to defend his WBA (super), IBF, and WBO world heavyweight titles for the first time tonight at the King Abdullah Sport City Arena in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. ‘The Cat’ picked up the straps after snatching them from Joshua in September in the Brit’s back garden.
Many criticised Joshua for being ‘too timid’ in the inaugural encounter and the Watford powerhouse is expected to adopt a more aggressive approach for the rematch. Usyk is all too aware of this fact and has been preparing for a more physical contest with a batch of huge sparring partners.
All of the noise coming out of Usyk’s Dubai camp suggests that he has willingly engaged in ‘brutal sparring wars’ and has sent many of his partners packing in the lead-up to fight night. But ‘The Cat’ has admitted the intensity has taken its toll and claims he has been ‘sent to space four or five times’ in sparring.
“It seems to me that during this preparation I made a trip to space maybe four or five times,” Usyk told Boxing Scene ahead of the fight. “Sometimes it was really difficult for me. When I had a break between rounds, I was thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing? What do I need this for?’ I answered myself, ‘Because you keep working. That was your choice. So, go ahead’.
“You cannot underestimate this gentleman. He’s very strong, you cannot become an Olympic champion from nothing. How old is he? 32? It’s a perfect age for a heavyweight, because he still has a real possibility to learn.
“I’m not claiming I’m old, because I’m 35 – I’m also very young! If a fighter, an athlete treats his career with discipline, he can fight for a long time. I think Anthony has very good discipline.”
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Usyk will be forced to dig even deeper tonight as he battles under the beating heat of the middle eastern sun.
“Probably I was born to fight,” he continued. “But everybody was born for a reason. If I was born to fight then you guys were born to tell these sports stories and explain us fighters to the world.
“My promoter Alex was born to be my promoter, to guide my career – and be my translator while I study English! Everyone was born for a reason, people who do not realize that often make mistakes in their lives. Each of us was born to fight for something.”