Usyk: Joker, Warrior & Ali Aficionado

Here is a reminder of Aleksandr Usyk’s greatness before going into the biggest battle of his career against Anthony Joshua.

September 25th, 2021

When Usyk entered the final press conference in London dressed like The Joker no one should be surprised. As we have learned throughout the years, the 34-year-old Ukrainian always has a trick up his sleeve.

For example, showcasing his juggling skills at public workouts or giving tricky quotes in broken English: “I am feel. I am very feel!”

But if you doubt his seriousness, just look at the beard and the silver earring, a tribute to Ukraine’s legendary 17th-century warrior Cossacks. Also very fitting to wear a beard since Usyk actually means mustache in Ukrainian. 

Inside the ropes, Usyk has slick footwork, a technical machine that keeps going and going but do not be amazed to see him mix it up with an Ali shuffle or a grin on his face.

The action of performing rapid footwork on the canvas is a nod to his hero, Muhammad Ali. In fact, there are many links between the pair.

They share the same birthday, 17 January, they are both Olympic champions. Both Ali and Usyk are 6 ft 3 in (191 cm), and their reach is 78 in (198 cm).

On his car, there is a sticker with the famous quote: ‘Float like a butterfly sting like a bee.’

Usyk was born into a family struggling financially. He had a number of jobs while growing up to support his parents, including looking out for cows on a farm and selling fruits and ice cream on the streets. 

“When I grew up I understood that not everything was easy for my family in terms of finance. To say it short; it was hard,” Usyk told before entering the WBSS in 2017.

“I went to school, I had good grades. My father told me it’s bad to be ignorant. You need to study and read a lot.

“My mother told me to learn English, but I asked Mum why do I need English. I’m working here at the farm. Who would I speak English to? Cows?

“But mum was right as always. I had to do it then, instead of doing it now.”

Somehow Usyk predicted that he was destined to greatness.

“From when I was a little boy I told my mother, I do not know why, but I told her, one day I will be famous, and I will have a helicopter and a large house where all will live. I told her, with these hands I will do everything so you no longer will have to work my dear mother.”

Usyk lived up to his prophecy.

As an amateur, Usyk won gold medals at the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics, both in the heavyweight division.

In July 2018 Usyk conquered the cruiserweight division through the World Boxing Super Series – unified all major world titles including The Ring belt – and became the first-ever to take home the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy. Impressive wins over Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis, and Murat Gassiev paved the way for 200lbs supremacy.

Ali’s widow, Lonnie Ali, presented the trophy to Usyk after the WBSS final in Moscow. “It is no secret that Muhammad Ali is my biggest idol so this is a great honour,” said Usyk.

So what makes Usyk so good?

Russ Anber, trainer and cutman, has been in Usyk’s corner for the past eight fights, and he describes Usyk like this on

“His self-confidence is extraordinary. And he always finds a way to win. He can adapt, he can box or he can take it to you. He’s a very versatile fighter. Look at his run through the cruiserweight division and look at the different styles he has faced and the different approaches he has brought to different fights.

“If you watch his fights one by one you can trace his evolution and the subtle ways that he has changed and adapted his style. Look at his performances in the World Boxing Super Series – in his performances against Huck, Briedis, and Gassiev you had three different Usyks in my opinion.”

At 6ft 6in, Anthony Joshua has a height advantage over 6ft 3in Usyk, but Usyk has not only grown a beard for the occasion, he has clearly bulked up to some extent so as to cope with the size of Britain’s unified heavyweight champ.

He defeated another British heavyweight in Derek Chisora in his second heavyweight bout after moving north from the cruiserweight division but faced doubts from many over his size and power competing with the big boys.

But size will not matter, says Usyk’s manager Alexander Krassyuk, comparing his fighter to Ali ahead of the battle at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“I must say for those who do not see the clear reality that Usyk is a heavyweight – Aleksandr is the same size, weight, reach as his idol, ‘The Greatest’ Muhammed Ali,” he told.

“Can anyone say Ali, the best of all time, was not a true heavyweight? So there is no problem there, if Ali can beat the best at that size, so can Usyk.”

If Usyk wins, he might show another trick to the world.

“I used to do the Cossack dance after some of my amateur wins, I might do it again if I win on Saturday!”


Joshua v Usyk

  • Date: Saturday, September 25
  • Venue: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
  • Joshua vs Usyk ring walk time (approx): 10pm BST / 5pm ET / 2pm PT / 7am AEST / 9am NZST
  • On the line: IBF, WBA (Super), WBO and IBO World Championships
  • UK live stream: Sky Sports Box Office
  • Global live stream: watch on DAZN in 170+ countries