By Charles Brun: Oleksandr Usyk’s cutman Russ Anber is doubtful that the IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion will return to the ring to box as long as his country Ukraine is at war with Russia.
Anber says he cannot picture Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs), who is defending Ukraine, dropping things, and going off to protect his three titles in a rematch with Anthony Joshua. That’s not realistic.
With no end in sight for the war in Ukraine, Anber doesn’t see Usyk fighting soon, which means Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) and his promoter Eddie Hearn will need to look elsewhere for an interim fight May, June, or July.
Hearn has been in a holding pattern recently, saying that he would need to ask Team Usyk about their availability for the Joshua rematch.
It would be a good idea for Hearn to start asking those questions now so that he can schedule an opponent for Joshua. As bad as Joshua has looked in his loss to Usyk last September in London, he needs to be as busy as possible.
Unfortunately for Hearn, Joshua is beginning to resemble a fighter heading downhill, having lost two out of his last four contests since 2019.
To delay the inevitable, Hearn needs to keep Joshua as busy as possible, preferably against quality opposition rather than resorting to feeding him cannon-fodder to keep his career afloat artificially.
Usyk not likely to box during the invasion
“I cannot see how it would be possible as long as this war is going on, as long as this invasion of Ukraine is going on, how Loma or Usyk are going to say, ‘Hey, I’m driving to the airport because I’ve got a training camp because I’ve got a fight coming up,'” said Usyk’s cutman Russ Anber on Calling with Russ Anber with Matt Casavant.
“Saturday was the last time I spoke to them,” said Anber when asked when was the last time he spoke to Usyk. “Today, I spoke to my other friend, Alex, in Ukraine. Saturday, was the last time I spoke to Usyk.
“I messaged Loma, but I didn’t get anything back from him, but poppa Lomachenko messaged me back, so that was on Saturday. Yep,” said Anber when asked if he’s still in contact with Usyk & Lomachenko’s manager Egis Klimas.
“In my mind knowing them the way they are, I can’t see that conceivably happening unless there’s the security of their families and their loved ones and their nation at home, I can’t see how they’re leaving for training camp or even if they decide to stay in Ukraine and train amidst a war to train to prepare for a fight.
“I can’t see how that can be done. So this is something that is going to be very costly to them and to the boxing world that we don’t get to see the two best fighters [Usyk and Lomachenko] in the world fight. It’s bad for everybody.
“Everybody wants this to end,” said Anber of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “There’s nothing good coming of this, whatever way you look at it.
“There are people dying, and there are people suffering in Russia that are victims of the dictator that’s at hand saying ‘I’m going to war,’ and decides to go to war. This isn’t a war that the people have asked for.
“It’s a very dangerous time and a very ugly time. I hope somehow and someway that cooler heads prevail, and there’s some kind of ceasefire to this and an end to this hatred that we shouldn’t be having in 2022.
“It’s just despicable. People should not be hiding in bunkers because they were invaded by a neighboring country. It’s just not right,” said Anber.
Joshua interim fight in summer possible
Adam Smith of Sky Sports believes Anthony Joshua will take an interim fight this summer against one of the contenders in the division.
Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) seemed open to a fight against Joe Joyce when asked during an interview last weekend. However, Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn will likely have someone else in mind who is ranked lower and not as much of a threat.
With Hearn, it’s easy to predict the type of opponent that he’ll select for Joshua’s interim fight in the summer. Hearn will likely choose one of these heavyweights for Joshua to fight next:
- Dereck Chisora
- Zhang Zhilei
- Demsey McKean
- Agit Kabayel
- Charles Martin
- Alen Babic
“First and foremost, Oleksandr Usyk has much more important issues at the moment with the serious situation in his home country. Our hearts go out to everyone affected,” said Adam Smith of Sky Sports to Boxing Social.
“Having Vitali [Klitschko], the mayor Kyiv, and Wladimir lives there and Oleksandr and Vasyl [Lomachenko] going back to fight is incredible, isn’t it?
“Yes, Anthony Joshua with all that back & forth with Fury and Whyte and who was going to fight who, plan-A will be Anthony Joshua would have the rematch with Oleksandr Usyk. Obviously, that’s the last thing on Team Usyk’s mind at the moment.
“For AJ, I think he needs to get his career going again, and obviously he said in an interview, ‘A fighter that’s not active is not good.’ He’ll need to get back in there and look at all situations because they’ve asked Oleksandr Usyk for the rematch for all the titles.
“Where are we with that, and how long will that be? What could happen if Oleksandr is away for a long period of time? Because it’s such an unprecedented situation, we just have to wait until we’re told by Team Usyk and Team Joshua what’s going to happen.
“Obviously, he [Joshua] wants to keep busy, and we’ll be delighted to have him in an interim fight, however that it is. Maybe in the summer and have AJ back at Sky. Of course, we’re out of contract with Anthony. Our talks continue.
“I’m very confident we’ll continue working with AJ as we have all the way through, and I think there’s a great relationship with Sky and him on both sides and 258 management. I love working with Freddie and AJ very much, and I hope that continues.
“I think in light of what’s taking place in the world, this is the least important thing at the moment. Let’s see where Team Usyk wants to place themselves if they want to completely forget about everything and just let AJ get back in and fight some sort of interim fight.
“I’m sure the governing bodies will put everything on hold. It’s just a tragic situation at the moment,” said Smith.
If the Russian invasion of Ukraine lingers, Joshua will have no other option but to return to the ring, whether he wants to or not.
Waiting around for Usyk to give him his rematch could prove to be a waste of Joshua’s time because he’s not likely to be available to fight anytime soon.