(Reuters) – World heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk has begun preparations for his rematch with Briton Anthony Joshua, the Ukrainian boxer said on Friday.
Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight world champion, dethroned heavyweight champion Joshua in front of a sell-out crowd at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September.
Joshua, 32, lost his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts to Usyk on a unanimous points decision in front of a sell-out crowd at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September 2021.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn said the rematch would take place in May but following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Usyk returned to Kyiv to join a territorial defence battalion.
“I decided to start preparing for a rematch with Anthony Joshua,” Usyk, 35, wrote on Instagram. “A large number of my friends support me … Thank God for everything.”
ESPN reported earlier this week that a fight between the two boxers would take place this summer after the Ukrainian sports minister gave Usyk permission to leave the country.
The winner could be in line for a title unification bout with WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury of Britain.
Ukrainian rules bar men aged 18-60, who could be conscripted, from leaving the country.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” that it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.
(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)