October 1, 2021

Usyk plays ‘joker’ at press conference


In addition to sending shockwaves from his momentous victory at boxing’s most recent heavyweight summit, Oleksandr Usyk received much attention for his fashionable role playing. The Ukrainian has brought a refreshing, personable charm into the upper echelon of heavyweight boxing after plowing through the cruiserweight ranks as undisputed champion. He is being hailed as one of the sport’s more interesting personalities, as evidenced by the fighter’s choice of attire for the September 23 press conference with then-champion Anthony Joshua. The head-shaven challenger opted to dress as Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘Joker’ character from the movie of the same name. Taking that role a step further, Usyk showcased his juggling skills to the London-gathered boxing media as he inched closer to the biggest fight of his boxing career.

The prelude to one of the most intriguing boxing matches of the year produced a low-key press conference when Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk met face-to-face. Even the ritual stare-down between the two pugilists was muted and highly civilized. It did require the eccentric and talented Usyk to produce some vivid and compelling splashes of color this fight went on to generate two days later in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

There was always a deep mutual respect between Joshua and Usyk with no need to stoke any fake animosity between the two. The highlight of the press conference was supplied by Usyk’s red suit, black shirt, gold polka dot tie and mustard waistcoat, inspired by The Joker. The Ukrainian spoke of his being a “positive hero” at the press conference: “My look, the hair, moustache, earring is all inspired by my ancestors who were 17th century Cossack warriors. I used to do a Cossack dance after some of my amateur wins. I might do it again if I win on Saturday. I am a very unpredictable guy. I have this look for this fight because it is coming from my heart.”

Usyk further explained that his impressive moustache was a homage to his surname. He revealed that “usyk” in Ukrainian means moustache, leading to desperate checks to confirm he was telling the truth. In this case it turned out the ‘Joker’ was, in fact, not joking.

Usyk seemed to be interested in sharing details about his life outside of boxing. He related how, after finishing school, it was his goal to study theater and the arts at the university level, but his winning the junior Ukraine boxing championships pushed him to pursue the sports route and he enrolled at the Physical Education Institute. He claims to still have a fondness for the theater, enjoys writing poetry and wants to learn to play the guitar.

Oleksandr Usyk’s stunning points victory over Anthony Joshua on September 25 had few laughs, but the Ukrainian did inject much drama and intrigue into a riveting heavyweight battle.