All the talk from Anthony Joshua about the changes he has made ahead of his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk are seemingly of no interest to the Ukrainian, As they head to Saudi Arabia next month, Usyk is only thinking about himself.
Usyk had been the underdog when he took the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles from Joshua last September. The loss led to Joshua replacing Robert McCracken as his head coach with Robert Garcia and a promise to be more aggressive.
But Usyk is not the slightest bit concerned ahead of the rematch in Jeddah on August 20.
“I don't think about him or what he is going to do,” Usyk said. “Whether he has a new tactic or a new trainer. I really don’t care. I am just thinking about myself.
“I have watched the first fight many times with my whole team, my trainer. We will look at what kinds of mistakes I made, and we will work on them to make sure we don’t make them again.”
The narrative before the first fight was that Joshua would prove to be too big for the former undisputed world cruiserweight champion, but things did not play out like that as Usyk got Joshua to box his fight and picked him off. Did he find Joshua predictable?
“For me, yes,” Usyk said. “I was just boxing. He thinks not about what to do during the match. When he fights, he doesn’t think about what he’s supposed to do. He thinks about winning.
“When I'm in my corner and my trainer says something, that’s what I think about. what I have to do. What will be his next step? What kind of movements will he do? After that I can do my movements.
“We are working very hard, we’re trying to be better, we are setting new goals and with the Lord’s help we will be better.”
Of course, Usyk has bigger problems than Joshua with a war raging in his homeland. He was actually in the UK, filming for a video game, when Russia invaded Ukraine. He flew home to sign up with the military, but says he was persuaded to go ahead with the fight after visiting some injured soldiers in hospital.
“I really didn’t want to leave my city,” he said. “But at one point I went to the hospital, where soldiers were wounded and getting rehabilitation from the war, and they were telling me, asking me to go to fight, to fight the country, fight for your pride and if you’re going to go there, you’re even going to help more for our country instead of being here fighting inside the ring.
“A lot of my close friends are right now in the front line, staying and fighting. I’m just supporting them and with this fight I wanted to bring them some kind of joy in between what they do.
“It took me one day to understand completely everything I have, everything I achieved, all my belts, all my titles, can be lost in one second.
“My family is not in Ukraine but a lot of people I know, a lot of my close friends, are inside of the country. I’m in touch with them every day. I am asking them, it’s very interesting for me how they’re feeling. Are they in a safe place?
“I don’t want to leave the country. I really don’t want to leave the country. I want to live there, and right after the fight, I’m going to go back to Ukraine.”
Usyk’s best friend, Vasyl Lomachenko made the decision to stay, turning down the chance to face George Kambosos to stay and fight for his country. Usyk has remained in touch.
“He’s good,” Usyk said. “Loma now is a Ukrainian soldier.”
Usyk, who also visited Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko before he left the country, also had his spell in the military and his home was actually invaded by Russian soldiers.
“Every day I was praying, and I was asking God, ‘please, don’t let anybody try to kill me and don’t let me shoot anybody, any other person. But if I would feel my family’s lives are in jeopardy, I would have to.
“Russian soldiers broke into my house. They broke things and they made some kind of living space and they stayed there for a while.
“Bombs are landing on civilian houses, bombs are landing on maternity hospitals. Two days ago a rocket landed on a mall. A shopping mall where all the normal people were.
“Sometimes I just force myself to bring a smile. Sometimes I just force myself to sing or to do some kind of movement. I don’t even know how to explain it.
“My children are asking: ‘Father, why do they want to kill us?’ And I don’t know what to tell them.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.