OLEKSANDR USYK had every answer for Anthony Joshua’s poorly-planned attack last September – but could not explain to his children why Russia wants to kill them.
When bombs started landing on his Ukraine home on February 24 – his daughter Yelizaveta’s birthday – the erudite 35-year-old father-of-three just could not find the words.
Oleksandr Usyk’s children in Kiev during the Russian bombing campaign
The family house innocent schoolkids Kyrylo, Mykhailo and Yelizaveta once shared with their parents in Vorzel, Bucha was overrun by Vladimir Putin’s ransackers.
Every material element Usyk had worked for and earned was up in smoke and the wannabe-Hollywood-actor-turned-unified-heavyweight-king had no script to lean on.
He said: “My children are asking: ‘Daddy, why do they want to kill us?’ I don’t know how to answer that.
“My family are not in Ukraine now but a lot of people I know and a lot of my close friends are inside the country.
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“I am in touch with them every day, I am asking them for updates.
“I didn’t want to leave the country. I want to live there, still. Straight after the fight I will go back to Ukraine.”
Usyk fled his home to join the Kiev Defence Battalion, had a machine gun slung over his shoulder by February 28, yet still prayed he would not have to use it against a Russian rampager.
It took special dispensation from iconic president Volodymyr Zelensky and his beloved wife Yekaterina – and inspiring words from wounded Ukrainian soldiers – to convince him to flee his besieged home and fight in gloves in the ring for our mere entertainment on August 20 in Saudi Arabia.
He added: “I really didn’t want to leave my country or my city but I went to a hospital where soldiers were wounded and getting rehabilitation from the war and they were telling me, asking me to go and fight for my country and for my pride.
“They told me that If I go and fight there I am even going to help our country more than if I stayed and fought in the war.
“It took me only one day of the war to understand completely that everything I have, everything that I have achieved, all my belts, all my titles, I can lose it in just one second.
“Russian soldiers went into a house of mine, broke a fence and all sorts of different things. They made living spaces and stayed there for a while.
Usyk with his wife Yekaterina in happier times
“Every day I was there I would pray to the Lord, please don’t let anybody try to kill me, don’t let anybody shoot me and please don’t make me have to shoot any other person.
“But if I had felt any danger, or that me or my family’s lives were in jeopardy, I would have to.”
Somehow this southpaw force of nature is busy preparing for a boxing match in scorching hot Jeddah, where he is in line to net a £50million windfall.
Since those first Spring explosions wrecked his world title celebrations, his journey has taken him through London, Sheffield, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and now Dubai.
And he is desperate to return to his ravaged home to inspire his beleaguered compatriots and try to restore peace to the home he adores.
When asked when he will shut off the heartbreaking updates, to focus on the fight, he revealed: “I’m going to be following every single day to hear what’s happening in my country.
“If all of this wasn’t happening I would be preparing for the fight at home.
Usyk (second right) armed to fight the Russian forces in Ukraine
“But war is not motivating me. It would be crazy to be motivated by the war.
“In their country they are not showing the truth. They are not showing that bombs are landing in civilian houses, or in a birthing hospital, or a few days ago a rocket landed in a shopping mall.
“Their soldiers, their people are saying on the TV that we are shooting each other.”
Incredibly this plight has not forced the Orthodox Christian to question his faith.
Instead he steadfastly believes this latest challenge is a gift from God that will help him overcome AJ and his new training team once again.
“I’ve watched the fight many times,” he said. “Me and the whole team have, looking for mistakes I made and things to work on to make sure they are gone.
Usyk and Anthony Joshua at their press conference this week
“I don’t even think about him or whatever he wants to do, his new tactics or new trainers. I really don’t care – I’m only thinking about what I want to do.
“When I fight I don’t think about what I’m supposed to do, only about winning.
“Since I was 16 years old I prayed to the Lord and – every time I feel something is difficult for me – I thank him.
Even more terrifying for Joshua than Usyk’s Cossack-warrior haircut, gap-toothed grin and unwavering faith, is his vow to have improved again on his almost faultless display on forign soil last year.
And any clever quips or funky dance moves you might see between now and August 20 are cover-ups to flog the PPV and mask the agony inside.
The ruthless leftie, who dressed up as Joaquin Phoenix’s terrifying Joker character last summer explained: “Sometimes I just force myself to smile, or I force myself to sing or to dance.
“But I don’t even know how to explain all of this.
“I’ve watched the first fight many times looking for mistakes I made and things to work on to make sure they are gone.
“We are working very hard and trying to be better in this next fight. We are making new goals and – with the Lord’s help – we are going to be even better.
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“I know a lot of my close friends are on the front line, standing and fighting so all I am doing right now is supporting them.
“With this fight I want to bring them some joy in between what they do.”