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Anthony Joshua shares his respect for rival Oleksandr Usyk, who fought on the front lines during the Ukraine-Russia war

ANTHONY JOSHUA has nothing but respect for rival Oleksandr Usyk ahead of their massive heavyweight showdown.

Five months after Usyk AJ took off his WBA, IBF and WBO belts, the Ukrainian hero was defending his country on the front lines.

Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk will renew their rivalry on Saturday

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Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk will renew their rivalry on SaturdayCredit: GETTY
Skillful southpaw Usyk outpointed AJ at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September

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Skillful southpaw Usyk outpointed AJ at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last SeptemberCredit: REUTERS
Against the backdrop of the war in his native Ukraine, Usyk had to prepare for the rematch

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Against the backdrop of the war in his native Ukraine, Usyk had to prepare for the rematchPhoto credit: INSTAGRAM
AJ has the utmost respect for Usyk, who is defending his homeland

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AJ has the utmost respect for Usyk, who is defending his homelandPhoto credit: INSTAGRAM

The 35-year-old southpaw slung a machine gun over his shoulder to patrol with Ukraine’s Defense Battalion but prayed he would never have to kill a Russian invader.

Usyk, a devout husband and father of three, only left his training camp when injured victims in military hospitals urged him to head to Jeddah and win Saturday’s rematch for national pride.

And Watford hero Joshua, 32, said: “If it were me, yes it would definitely have an impact and I don’t know if it would be positive or negative.

“I don’t know how I would deal with it, but I know it would be tough.

“I’ve never lived in a conflict like this, so I don’t know what impact that would have on me.

“I respect what he did 100 percent. It’s his home, isn’t it – you have to defend your home.

“It’s such a shame that civilians in wars get the worst when it’s a political matter. He’s just trying to defend his community, so I respect him.

“I think I would have done the same, not as a boxer or a warrior, just as a general person.

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“People have decided not to leave their homes and to defend themselves. It has nothing to do with being a warrior. I respect what he did.”

Joshua was featured convincingly at Tottenham’s new stadium in September.

So going straight into the rematch just hours after the unanimous decision was a bold move.

The £80million bid from Saudi Arabia to stage and control the event has halted proceedings.

The Englishman said: “We have been looking for suitable dates for him and his team.

“It was important for them to be ready, rather than us forcing them to have a date.

“I didn’t want us to say, ‘This is the date it has to be.’ I wanted us to work together. This is how we show compassion.

Joshua hopes for redemption next weekend in the Saudi desert

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Joshua hopes for redemption next weekend in the Saudi desertCredit: GETTY

But Joshua was also compassionate enough to give Usyk – who suffered a 22-pound weight loss due to stress in a Kiev bunker – time to make the right decision for himself and his family.

“He wanted to compete and defend the belts. It was scheduled for around June 11, then changed for his and Saudi’s reasons.

“But I feel like it’s worked out for everyone in the long run now.”

WBC champion Tyson Fury, 34, is expected to pop out of another supposed retirement to face the winner of the duel.

The 6ft 9in fighter from Morecambe has rudely dismissed Usyk’s threat against him based on his old amateur middleweight days.

And he has even accused the former undisputed cruiserweight king of using steroids to aid his undefeated rise in the weight classes.

But the gap-toothed leftist revealed the Gypsy King dared not insult him when they met at a New York show in December 2021.

When reminded of Fury’s jibe, Usyk said: “Of course he never said it to my face. I want to laugh every time I see and hear him.

“He said very different things to my face – but I won’t tell you what he said to me. I know that one day we will fight.”

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https://www.the-sun.com/sport/5995731/anthony-joshua-usyk-rematch-ukraine-russia-war/ Anthony Joshua shares his respect for rival Oleksandr Usyk, who fought on the front lines during the Ukraine-Russia war

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