Ukraine’s Usyk backed by Russian star ahead of world title rematch
Aleksandr Usyk will have his hand raised against Anthony Joshua once more when the two heavyweight boxers meet in Jeddah on August 20, according to Russian former champion Alexander Povetkin.
After cruising to a unanimous decision win in Joshua's backyard at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London last September, Usyk relieved the Brit of the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight titles and will defend them for the first time in a rematch held in the Saudi city in just over a fortnight.
As is common when a big fight approaches, several notable figures of the sweet science are being asked for their predictions on the outcome of the potential box office smash, with former WBA king Povetkin providing his thoughts for Match TV.
"I will root for Usyk," Povetkin revealed, despite tensions between their two countries owing to their ongoing conflict.
"In the first fight, he did everything right, [he] did not miss.
"The only thing here is if Joshua changes something in his preparation and plan, then something might be different, [but] I think that Usyk should win," added Povetkin, who was stopped by Joshua in a 2018 bout.
While Usyk-Joshua II must be bought on pay-per-view in most countries or viewed on subscription platform DAZN, Usyk has guaranteed that those in his homeland can enjoy the bout for free.
As revealed by his promoter Alex Krassyuk, Usyk tried to buy the TV rights himself from the fight's Saudi organizers who reportedly then gifted him them free of charge.
Usyk played a part in the defense of his homeland by taking up arms early into Russia's military operation, but this led to him being stripped of honors in Crimea, where he hails from.
"Every day I was there, I was praying and asking: ‘Please, God, don’t let anybody try to kill me. Please don’t let anybody shoot me. And please don’t make me shoot any other person," he recalled to the Guardian recently, of his time patrolling the streets.
Despite not wanting to leave Ukraine, however, Usyk claimed it was a trip to the hospital to visit wounded soldiers that prompted him to agree to a second battle with Joshua.
"They asked me to go, to fight [Joshua], to fight for the country," Usyk claimed. "They said if you go there, you’re going to help our country even more instead of fighting inside Ukraine."
Leaving the confrontation in late March, Usyk began training in Poland and is now a mere two weeks out from the biggest fight of his career.
Elsewhere in boxing, the next opponent for the victor of the clash was announced after the WBO ordered a title eliminator between Joe Joyce and Joseph Parker on September 24 this week.
Usyk – a natural cruiserweight who will complete just his fourth fight at heavyweight against Joshua – hasn't faced either man. But Joshua already boasts a March 2018 unanimous decision win over New Zealander Parker in Cardiff's Principality Stadium.
While neither pugilist will be looking past their next couple of foes, however, the real money is to be had in coaxing The Ring and WBC ruler Tyson Fury out of a supposed retirement to see history's first ever undisputed heavyweight champion of the four-belt era crowned.
Fury and Joshua looked to have agreed on a pair of showdowns last year, but Usyk then threw a spanner in the works by embarrassing Joshua in what has been dubbed one of the sport's greatest road wins of all time.