Oleksandr Usyk has followed in the footsteps of fellow Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko in recent years by becoming unified heavyweight world champion, and a national icon as a result.
Usyk avenged Klitschko’s loss to Anthony Joshua back in 2020, and beat the Brit in a rematch a year later to solidify his status as one of the finest heavyweights of this generation.
You would think, then, that the two countrymen get on like a house on fire – but that may not have always been the case.
Sky Sports pundit Johnny Nelson claims he witnessed Usyk “boss” his compatriot in a 2018 sparring session, and was instructed to leave the gym as a result.
Nelson recalled the events whilst speaking to Behind The Gloves.
“I rate Usyk, when I saw him sparring with Wladimir when Wladimir was preparing for Tyson Fury.
“I said, ‘Who is that guy? Who is he?’
“I had no idea, but I knew there was something special about him.
“He did one round with Wladimir, and Wladimir slung him out and said ‘Get out, not while the press is still here.’
“He was making it hard for Wladimir, he was like bossing Wladimir. ‘Get him out! Get someone else in!'”
Usyk will get the chance to defeat another one of Klitschko’s former foes on February 17th, when he takes on Tyson Fury for the undisputed heavyweight crown in Riyadh.
🗣️ “𝗜𝗙 𝗧𝗬𝗦𝗢𝗡 𝗙𝗨𝗥𝗬 𝗧𝗥𝗔𝗜𝗡𝗦 𝗛𝗔𝗥𝗗, 𝗛𝗘’𝗦 𝗚𝗢𝗧 𝗜𝗧” ✅
🥊 Zhilei Zhang makes his #FuryUsyk prediction 🔮
— Pro Boxing Fans (@ProBoxingFans) January 22, 2024
Despite being at a significant height and weight disadvantage, many pundits are giving the 37-year-old a real chance of toppling Fury, partly as a result of the Brit’s subpar showing against Francis Ngannou in October.
‘The Gypsy King’ was shockingly dropped and taken right to the wire by former UFC star Ngannou, who was written off by virtually all observers before the fight.
If Usyk was to pull off the victory in Saudi Arabia, he would become only the second man to hold undisputed status in two weight divisions in the four belt era.