WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk says protecting the independence of Ukraine is worth more to him than any of his belts or titles. The slick southpaw, who successfully dethroned two-time world champion Anthony Joshua at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September was recently pictured with an assault rifle after signing up to the Kyiv Territorial Defence.
Usyk had been in London as recently as last week when he watched Chelsea beat Lille 2-0 in the Champions League at Stamford Bridge.
The 35-year-old soon jetted off back to Ukraine though to protect his motherland in their bid to fight off Russian advances.
Yet his heroic efforts in Kyiv are now expected to affect his boxing career – for the short term at least.
Before tensions escalated, Usyk’s camp were in talks with Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn over the rematch with Joshua.
While a deal had not yet been formalised, there were discussions over a second fight happening in May at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium again.
Now Joshua may have to make alternative plans after Usyk revealed his war effort comes first.
“I really don’t know when I’m going to be stepping back in the ring,” he told CNN.
“My country and my pride are more important to me than a belt.”
Remarkably, Hearn is still optimistic he will be able to finalise a date in the coming weeks with Usyk’s promoter Alex Krassyuk.
Joshua, who is eager for revenge, recently backed Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko for standing up for their country.
“I’ve learned sports and politics go hand in hand,” he told iFL TV.
“They’re powerful voices and it’s good they’re speaking up.
“They’re not pushing for war, they’re saying ‘let’s find peace’ so good luck to them.”
Talks were also held over Joshua potentially stepping aside and allowing Tyson Fury and Usyk to fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world.
However, AJ decided he was determined to rematch Usyk as Fury moved on to defending his WBC and Ring Magazine heavyweight world titles against Dillian Whyte.
The mouth-watering all-British matchup is scheduled to take place at Wembley on April 23.