Oleksandr Usyk has been spotted holding a toy donkey during the build-up to his rematch with Anthony Joshua this weekend – and there's a heartbreakingly good reason for it.
After leaving war-torn Ukraine over six months ago to prepare for the fight, Usyk was forced to part ways with his 12-year-old daughter Yelizaveta, even after his family were forced to flee their home when it was ransacked by Russian soldiers.
As a parting gift, Yelizaveta handed her father her favourite toy – an Eeyore (from Winnie-the-Pooh) doll that they'd won together at Disneyland – and told him it was his new guardian angel.
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When asked about the toy, Usyk explained: "It’s my daughter’s. She gave it to me to be my talisman.
"When we left Ukraine together but our roads separated in Europe, my daughter gave this toy to me and said, 'This needs to be right next to you'.
"It sleeps with me, is always close too and she told me to take it to my media event."
Usyk's wife Yekaterina arrived in Saudi Arabia last week ahead of the big fight, though the world heavyweight champion admitted he's desperate to be reunited with the rest of his family.
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"I just want to see my kids, who I have not seen properly for over five months, I want to see my mum. They are all now in Europe," the 35-year-old said.
"I want to see them and hug them and have dinner with them. And then I will go to Kyiv."
Usyk revealed that he didn't want to leave Ukraine to train for something as comparatively trivial as a boxing match, but rousing encouragement from his wife, the wounded soldiers he met on tours of military hospitals and President Zelensky convinced him to use his platform to spread their message of hope and peace.
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