Oleksandr Usyk will deliver the message that ‘Ukraine is still strong’ when he faces Anthony Joshua in their heavyweight rematch.
And Usyk’s former amateur team-mate and Probellum fighter Taras Shelestuyk says the world champion has already given his war-torn country a ‘victory’ no matter the outcome in Jeddah, on Saturday night.
In late February, Shelestuyk was two weeks away from his last fight with Gabriel Maestre, when the conflict with Russia started but after much soul-searching, he believed it was right to carry on with his contest to “fight for my country”.
And the world-ranked welterweight says Usyk facing Joshua in the Rage on the Red Sea, will fill the Ukrainian people with immense pride, regardless of the outcome.
“When I went into my fight, a lot of people supported me and said: ‘Thank you so much for the flying the flag and for the Ukrainian music’ when I walked out,” Shelestuyk told Probellum.com.
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“And so, this fight means a lot because Usyk has huge popularity in Ukraine and around the world and so he can give the message to the people that Ukraine is still strong, Ukraine is still fighting, we are defending our country, we protect our country, our family, our homes.
“When there was talk of the rematch, I said he needed to fight because it will be best for him, best for the Ukrainian people, because he can help more by fighting than he will by shooting in Ukraine because he is not a soldier, he is an athlete.
“And this is what he can do better. Like in the press conference this week with the Cossacks dress in and singing our song. But for me and I think for a lot of people, it doesn’t matter what the results will be, it will be already a victory.”
Shelestuyk, an Olympic bronze medallist from 2012, says there is a high chance of a stoppage in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night, adding: “In the first six rounds, if Joshua hurts Usyk, he can stop the fight. But if not, I think he will go down physically, and the last three championship rounds will be hard for him, and Usyk can stop him via TKO or the referee stopping the fight.
“Of course, like all Ukrainians I will support Oleksandr Usyk for the whole Ukrainian people, we want this victory because it will give us more happiness and make us believe in ourselves that we can win like our biggest fight against Russia.”
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