"In comparison with war, boxing is child's play."

Those were the words uttered by Oleksandr Usyk in April after he left Ukraine's front line to prepare for the rematch against Anthony Joshua, which takes place in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Eleven months ago, Usyk placed himself on top of the boxing world with a stunning victory over Joshua at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium – where he dominated what was only his third fight at heavyweight level.

The aftermath saw talk of a unification bout against Tyson Fury, while questions were also raised as to whether Joshua would walk away, but both of those discussions were irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

In February, Russia stunned the world with the invasion of Ukraine and citizens took to the frontline to defend their nation, with Usyk travelling back to Kiev to fight.

Boxing, understandably, was far from the mind of Usyk, who told CNN: "I really don't know when I'm going to be stepping back in the ring. My country and my honour are more important to me than a championship belt."

Usyk will this weekend put his WBO, WBA Super, and IBF titles on the line against Joshua and shoulder the hopes of a nation who have had to cope with unthinkable trauma.

Sport, in situations like this, is largely irrelevant and few would criticise Usyk if he were to struggle in his rematch given the experiences he has endured – but he may find extra encouragement from Joshua's comments ahead of the bout.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Joshua described the months since he lost his belts to Usyk in north London as a "nightmare", words that may sting Usyk's camp given what has transpired away from the ring.

Many would suggest Usyk, having been the underdog in the initial bout and still with limited heavyweight experience, has nothing to lose – but he would be the first to argue that is not the case.

In terms of preparation, Usyk, like Joshua, has made significant adjustments and, having been at the lower-end of the heavyweight scale for the first clash has bulked up for the rematch, while the Brit has done the opposite.

Joshua had the weight, height and reach advantage for the first bout but did not put it into effect, with it clear after the opening five rounds that he was on the back foot and his best chance of winning was a knockout – but he never pushed for a stoppage.

Usyk, now displaying added bulk, may look to be more aggressive and to take the sort of chances that Joshua passed up back in September, though that is an approach he has not shown yet in the heavyweight division.

The champion's past two bouts have gone the distance and he earned unanimous decisions but, in the heavyweight game, it is a brave approach to look to stand firm, as just a single punch can change the picture entirely.

With additional weight behind him, Usyk should be able to hit Joshua harder this time around, but the full force of his strikes may well come from a different source – the support of his nation.

Promoter Alex Krassyuk told Sky Sports that Usyk travelled across Ukraine to visit high-ranking army officials, fans and injured combatants while supporting the resistance of the Russian invasion, where he received significant support and backing to return to the ring for the rematch.

"People want him to fight. People want him to win. They all want the Ukrainian flag to be risen and the Ukrainian anthem to be heard throughout the planet," he said.

That level of support can inspire Usyk when he faces a rejuvenated Joshua.

Anthony Joshua insists he will not be driven into retirement if he fails to defeat Oleksandr Usyk in his world heavyweight title rematch this Saturday.

Joshua, 32, suffered only the second defeat of his 26-fight professional career when he met Usyk for the first time last September, going down in a convincing unanimous decision to the talented Ukrainian.

While it was considered an upset, Usyk dominated the Brit in a masterclass to claim the IBF, WBA and WBO belts at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Usyk has built a 19-0 professional record, including a perfect 7-0 in cruiserweight world title fights before deciding to move up to heavyweight.

Joshua has shown his ability to respond to adversity before when he successfully reclaimed his belts from Andy Ruiz Jr after the Mexican had pulled off a stunning stoppage victory six months prior, with that rematch also taking place in Saudi Arabia.

The Englishman has dismissed suggestions he may have to quit if he fails to dethrone Usyk this weekend.

"It’s up to me at the end of the day, it’s not up to anyone else what I do with my career," he said. "I don’t have to do this. Why do I do it? It’s because it’s all I know.

"This is also my 12th consecutive world title fight. I’ve been in world title fights back-to-back 12 times. 

"It happens – if you’re fighting people at world level, you’re meeting people of world-level quality. I’m not fighting people who are below par."

Anthony Joshua admitted his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk is "must win" ahead of the fight on Saturday.

Joshua was surprisingly outclassed by Usyk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September as the Ukrainian won the IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight titles.

Usyk will defend his belts for the first time in a rematch this weekend with the Briton in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking at the final press conference before their bout at the Shangri-La hotel in Jeddah, Joshua insisted he has to win, but felt confident after his camp with new trainers Robert Garcia and Angel Fernandez.

"That's it. Must win," Joshua said. "I like the pressure. It's been tough. Robert Garcia, Angel Fernandez, existing members of my previous team as well, definitely pushed me, challenged me. 

"Now we just get the job done. Instinct, stay focused, get the job done, God willing, victorious."

On his motivation for the fight, where he will face the unfamiliar role of challenger, Joshua said: "It's competition.

"I've got goals I want to achieve in the ring on the night. That's competition with myself. You've got to have a competitive spirit."

Usyk is aiming to repeat his impressive performance from the first fight, and seemed relaxed at the press conference, echoing what his opponent said about the importance of competition.

"We were born to compete for life, for belts, for everything. The one who does not compete does not live," Usyk said.

"All our lives are competition, for anything, for something, for somebody. That's why we are competing."

Either as a mind trick or simply to show how unfazed he was in general, as Joshua was leaving the stage following their face off, Usyk burst into song, joined by members of his team.

Oleksandr Usyk is determined to do his fellow Ukrainians proud when he faces Anthony Joshua on Saturday and vowed to help them in any way he can.

Usyk outclassed Joshua at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September to win the IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight titles.

The 35-year-old will defend his belts for the first time in a rematch with the Briton in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

Usyk has been involved in a battle that is much bigger than any boxing fight since he became world champion, returning to his homeland to defend his country following Russia's invasion.

He has set up the Usyk Foundation to support humanitarian aid for Ukrainians in need of medical care, shelter and food.

Usyk has also ensured his second bout with Joshua in Jeddah will be free to watch for the people of his war-torn country and he hopes to put on a show for his compatriots.

"I want to help my people and my country and Saturday night is going to be a small party for them, maybe a big party," he told Sky Sports.

"I will do my best to give the best performance that I can.

"It's important because the war is taking place and we have to help people. Whether they need food, we supply them with food. Whether they need anything else, we have to help them.

"Because this is something that is happening in our hearts and our assignment is to keep positive and keep other people positive.

"I have a group of people who work hard to find families in need. Maybe they need some kind of house to live, some food to support, maybe some money to spend for their families.

"They are looking for these people, they are analysing what are their needs and they help in satisfying their needs. This is something that they do every day and this is something that will be done in the future because this is actually the mission of the foundation."

Oleksandr Usyk has ensured his world heavyweight title rematch with Anthony Joshua this month will be free to watch for the people of war-torn Ukraine.

Usyk outclassed Joshua to win the WBO, WBA Super, and IBF titles at Tottenham Hotspur last September.

The 35-year-old will defend those straps for the first time in Saudi Arabia on August 20, when Joshua gets the chance to regain the belts.

Saudi organisers gifted the television rights for the bout to Usyk, who has enabled those who are able to watch in his homeland will not have to pay.

Alex Krassyuk, the world champion's promoter, told talkSPORT.com: "He intended to buy [the right], but received it [free] for Ukraine.

"He makes it free to watch via Megogo [streaming service], his YouTube channel and via state public TV ‘Suspilne’."

Usyk returned to Ukraine to defend his country following Russia's invasion of his country in February.

Anthony Joshua acknowledges he is "desperate" to beat Oleksandr Usyk and reclaim his WBA, IBF and WBO titles but would rather do his talking in the ring.

Joshua has booked a rematch against Usyk for August 20 in Jeddah, having suffered only the second defeat of his professional career against the Ukrainian last year.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Joshua spoke of the benefits of having the first fight to look back on but described facing a southpaw like Usyk as "a nightmare".

And "every fight is different", the British heavyweight added; Usyk agreed, vowing: "I do understand that [Joshua] is going to be different – so will I."

This was perhaps unlike many boxing media briefings, with a relative lack of ego on show as Joshua focused on delivering a result while Usyk dismissed the significance of becoming "the greatest".

"I'm definitely desperate to get my hands on [the titles]," Joshua said, but he added: "Less talk, more action. Let me get in there and do my job.

"I'm not a comedian, I'm not someone who writes speeches. I'm definitely hungry, definitely desperate, but at the end of the day, how I perform will speak volumes to the masses."

In the opposite corner, Usyk – wearing a t-shirt in the colours of the Ukraine flag, bearing the message, "colours of freedom" – is not interested in appealing to the masses.

"I'm not fighting for money or recognition," he said. "I don't need this. I don't need to become the greatest.

"I'm just doing my job now and will continue doing it as long as my heart is beating. The only thing I'm on my way to is to save my soul. Everything else is just life."

Anthony Joshua labelled himself "the comeback king" as he faced up to Oleksandr Usyk ahead of their eagerly anticipated August rematch in Saudi Arabia.

While Joshua said he was confident of bouncing back from last September's unanimous decision reverse, Ukrainian Usyk pledged to give his home country some cheer through his boxing after returning to aid against the Russian invasion earlier this year.

Joshua will be bidding to reclaim the unified WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles on August 20, after falling to just the second defeat of his professional career against Usyk in London last year.

As the fighters looked ahead to their clash in Jeddah, Joshua said he was grateful for the opportunity to right the wrongs of his previous performance at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

"The great thing is I've got a second chance. What got me into boxing in the first place... when I was a youngster I got in a little bit of trouble every now and again, and I was blessed with a second chance and I found boxing," Joshua said.

"I took it with both hands. So if you know me and a lot of my story, you know I'm the comeback king. You can put me down, but it's difficult to keep me down.

"In the fight in September, I was wrong and he [Usyk] was right. Definitely the hunger is still there. Blips happen, things happen in life, but resilience, mental toughness and consistency will always prevail."

The pair's second bout was delayed by Usyk returning to Kyiv in March to help defend Ukraine against Russian forces.

The 35-year-old Usyk, who is unbeaten in 19 professional fights, hopes he can offer some happiness to his countrymen when he returns to the ring.

"As we all know we are not in the best condition at the moment back at home, but we are doing what we have to do," Usyk said.

"We are doing our job. Together with my team we are working hard to achieve our goals. I never made some very loud and bright speeches.

"All I did was I just worked hard in my training camp and in my gym. That's what I'm going to do until the date of the fight, and then I will enter the ring and will make you happy with my boxing."

Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua's rematch has been confirmed for August in Saudi Arabia, with three heavyweight titles on the line.

The bout in Saudi Arabia, which will take place on August 20, comes 11 months after Ukrainian Usyk defeated Joshua at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London to secure the WBA, WBC and IBF heavyweight titles.

Joshua possessed a rematch clause in his contract but there were initially some question marks as to whether he would activate his option or step aside to allow Usyk to face off against Tyson Fury in a heavyweight unification bout.

Further delays then occurred following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with Usyk returning to Kyiv to help defend his nation's capital.

Dubbed the 'Rage on the Red Sea', Joshua's bout with Usyk in Jeddah comes almost three years since he reclaimed his heavyweight belts with victory against Andy Ruiz Jr, who had inflicted a first career defeat upon the Briton.

Joshua's record now stands at 24-2 with 22 knockouts, while Usyk took his record to 19-0 with 13 knockouts with victory against the Brit.

The bout will be Joshua's 12th-consecutive heavyweight title fight and he lay down the gauntlet ahead of the August clash.

"What a roller coaster journey, fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world for the 12th consecutive time," he said.

"I won the belt, unified the division won another belt, lost the belts, became two-time unified heavyweight champion and now have my date with history set to become three-time Unified heavyweight champion of the world. What an opportunity.

"Fighting championship level back to back has had its pros and cons, but I decide every day to get stronger, to learn from my experiences and grow. A happy fighter is a dangerous fighter and I am the happiest and most motivated I have been."

Usyk's camp referenced the ongoing struggles in Ukraine following the announcement, with promoter Alexander Krassyuk saying: "The rematch is on the way. The fight will be much bigger and more spectacular than the first. It is new history in the making. 

"Being a part of this event is a huge honour. Our country is now fighting for its heritage. Our mission is to expand its legacy. With the help of the Lord we will achieve this."

Anthony Joshua is "more confident" than ever and has signed the paperwork for his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk, according to the Briton's promoter Eddie Hearn.

Usyk dominated Joshua to claim the WBA Super, WBO and IBF titles at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September, condemning the 32-year-old to a second professional defeat.

Joshua activated his rematch clause but plans for a second bout were thrown into doubt after Usyk returned to Ukraine to defend his homeland following the Russian invasion.

However, Usyk has started preparing for the rematch in April, with the bout set to take place in Saudi Arabia, with the Ukrainian's promoter Oleksandr Krasyuk suggesting the clash will take place in August.

After a lengthy delay for confirmation of the fight, Hearn said on Saturday that the paperwork for the clash has been signed and a formal announcement will come next week.

"This fight is on and you will get an official announcement early next week," Hearn told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"[AJ] understands that in a fight of this magnitude, things do take time. It's taken time but we're in a great place. He's been training throughout, so has Oleksandr Usyk.

"AJ is more confident than I've ever seen him going into a fight. We believe he's going to win the fight."

Devin Haney beat George Kambosos Jr in a unanimous points decision to become the first undisputed lightweight boxing champion in 32 years.

Haney handed his Australian opponent his first professional defeat in front of over 40,000 fans at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne as he added Kambosos' WBA (Super), IBF and WBO titles to his WBC belt.

The American remains undefeated on 28-0 (15 KOs), and said after the fight it was a "dream come true".

All three judges at ringside scored the bout in favour of Haney, two by 116-112 and the other by 118-110.

Haney becomes the eighth boxer in history to hold all four titles at the same time, and the first lightweight to do so since Pernell Whitaker in 1990.

Following his history-making performance, Haney said: "I was comfortable. I was sticking to the game plan.

"The game plan was to go in and hit and not get hit, and I did that for the majority of the fight.

"I took the last round off because I knew I was comfortably ahead, but I fought a good, smart fight."

Kambosos was understanding in defeat, but said he wants a rematch down the line and indicated he will learn from mistakes made in this contest.

"I want to take the best test, the hardest test and I'm going to give him full respect for his victory and let him have his time," the 28-year-old said.

"We'll do it again. I have to implement a few things but I thought the fight was very close."

Conor McGregor has pledged to return to boxing in the future as he steps up his recovery from a broken leg, but he plans on making a UFC comeback first.

McGregor has not competed since his TKO loss to Dustin Poirier in UFC last July, when the 33-year-old broke the tibia and fibula bones in his left leg.

The Irish fighter, who has a 22-6-0 MMA record, was tipped by UFC president Dana White in March to make his return from injury later this year.

McGregor also made his only appearance in a boxing ring to date back in 2017, losing to Floyd Mayweather Junior by virtue of TKO, but is keen to box again when fit to do so.

While attending qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix, McGregor insisted boxing fans would see more of him when he reaches full fitness.

"Boxing is my first love in combat sports. I had such a great time the last time I was out there," he told Sky Sports on Saturday.

"Obviously, my return will be in the octagon for UFC – that story is from over, in fact it's just being written, it is just the beginning.

"But, boxing, for sure I will grace the squared circle again in the future.

"The body is doing good. We are going to up the training bit by bit. I have another CT scan in the coming days, and then I will be clear to kick. Once I can kick and grapple, I will be back in no time.

"Boxing training is going well, [and] strength training. I am excited to get back."

Meanwhile, McGregor suggested Anthony Joshua will struggle to regain his belts in his upcoming rematch with Oleksandr Usyk, due to the strength of the heavyweight division.

Joshua lost his WBA, WBO, and IBF titles to the Ukrainian last September, and a date and venue for the duo's next bout is expected to be fixed in the near future after Usyk began preparing for the match.

"It didn't go so well the last time. It's a tough ask," he said of Joshua's prospects.

"AJ is a good guy and I wish him well. Usyk is a great guy as well and I hope for a good bout for both men. The heavyweight division is on fire at the minute. Good things are happening."

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez accepted the result of his unanimous decision defeat to Dmitry Bivol, hailing his opponent as a "great champion" after just the second loss of his career.

The Mexican came up short of claiming the WBA light heavyweight title in Las Vegas on Saturday against the Russian, who won 115-113 on all three scorecards after a 12-round bout.

His only other defeat in 61 fights coming against Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2013, Alvarez was left in an unfamiliar position.

But speaking afterwards, the 31-year-old was congratulatory of Bivol, while vowing to bounce back even stronger down the line.

"You have to accept it, it's boxing," Alvarez said. "He's a great champion. Sometimes in boxing you win and lose and I'm not giving excuses. I lost and he won."

On the possibility of whether he desired a rematch, he added: "Yeah, of course I do. "This doesn't end like this."

"This doesn't end in this way, I'm a very competitive person, I've got many years ahead of me, and I'm gonna come back stronger.

“We want the rematch, and we want to do much better in the rematch. I'm very proud and competitive. I've gone up and fought at 175lbs.

"I've gone out of my comfort zone to fight at a weight that's not mine, there's no shame in that. I'm looking for challenges that others would be scared to take on because they might lose.”

Alvarez's loss means he now moves to 57-2-2, while Bivol extends his unbeaten record to 20-0.

Dmitry Bivol won in a unanimous decision over Canelo Alvarez to retain his WBA light heavyweight title in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Using his height and longer reach to his advantage, the Kyrgyz-born Russian landed the cleaner and harder shots against Alvarez in a clinical display.

All three judges handed down scores of 115-113 in Bivol's favour despite what was largely a non-competitive fight.

Alvarez confirmed he would exercise his rematch clause and Bivol took no issue, believing the win solidifies his status in the division.

"No problem," Bivol said via translator post-fight. "I took this fight because I just wanted to get the opportunity and I appreciate this opportunity.

"I didn't fight for anything except getting the fight.

"I'm ready for the rematch, I just want to make sure that I can be treated like the champion now."

Bivol moved to 20-0 with his ninth consecutive title defence, while it marks the second official defeat of Alvarez's career in his return to light heavyweight following 2013's majority-decision loss to Floyd Mayweather.

Dmitry Bivol accepts he may not win any popularity contests in Las Vegas on Saturday night, but the Russian believes he can triumph in the ring against Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez.

The WBA light heavyweight belt will be on the line at the T-Mobile Arena when the fighters, both 31, go head to head in Sin City.

Mexican superstar Canelo (57-1-2) can expect strong support, while Bivol may find it in short supply.

This is a fight that some feel should not be happening, with Wladimir Klitschko having told the BBC in March that Bivol should be "forbidden from fighting in America", due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Klitschko's brother, Vitali, is mayor of Kyiv.

The WBC, IBF and IBO have said they will not sanction fights that feature boxers from Russia or Belarus, but the WBA is not taking the same stance.

Even without that factor hanging over the fight, Bivol would reasonably expect Canelo to have comfortably the greater support this weekend, given his status as a regular Vegas venue filler.

Bivol (19-0) is a 31-year-old who aligns himself just as closely to Kyrgyzstan as he does to Russia, and he is the belt holder.

While Canelo is dominant at super middleweight, stepping up from the 168lbs division to 175lbs brings with it its own challenges. He is targeting undisputed champion status in the division.

Canelo told Stats Perform: "I feel good, I feel great. Like always, I trained 100 per cent. I'm ready for Saturday.

"I feel I am at my best in 168lbs. But I'm always around 180lbs in my normal life. So I feel good. It's a challenge for me, but in this period I would love to be undisputed in 175lbs too."

Bivol will be taking on a fighter widely regarded as the pound-for-pound number one, so to beat Canelo would be the ultimate scalp.

"I don't think about whether I will be the best or something else, I just have to beat him," Bivol told Stats Perform. "I just believe in my skills, and we will see what will happens after, and then we will think about who's the best."

Should he prevail, Bivol will give greater thought about where that puts him in boxing's current pantheon.

"Of course it means I can be the best and I've realised my potential," he said. "That's what it means. We will be glad, but I don't think about the result now. I'm only thinking about the fight and not the result."

Canelo is expected to tackle Gennady Golovkin later in the year, completing a trilogy.

His status is such that Bivol is admiring of the Mexican, albeit determined to send him to the canvas. 

"He's the most popular of my opponents, I can 100 per cent say, this is one of the most known opponents," Bivol said.

BIvol is braced for the rare experience of not being a fight favourite on Saturday night, and said: "It's motivated me, and it's a new challenge for me."

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