Alone in Usyk’s punch factory… ‘He feeds off aggression!’

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Oleksandr Usyk circles the ring in Dubai, reeling off blurring combinations, as he tweaks his human mechanics for a hurtful rematch with Anthony Joshua.

He is boxing’s winning machine, undefeated in 13 years, and Joshua was dragged through a thresher, nearly wilting on the ropes in the finale of Usyk’s masterful win in September.

The British star has been emboldened by a new trainer, Robert Garcia, and is hinting at unbridled aggression, so Usyk recruited his own selection of ferocious sparring recruits for a secretive training camp in the UAE.

Fighter’s coaches were denied entry to Usyk’s closely guarded sessions, although Malik Scott, a trainer for Deontay Wilder, offered assistance to the crop of sparring partners.

Raphael Akpejiori, a towering Nigerian contender, with a similar stature to Joshua and a booming right hand, was one of the heavyweights who received a call from Team Usyk.

“I’m 6’9″, I have a fairly decent right hand, a good enough jab, and also I have a dominant personality in the boxing ring,” Akpejiori told Sky Sports.

“I think that’s why he reached out to me, to help him prepare for this fight.

“[I sparred] more than 40 rounds. When you step into the ring with somebody you have seen on television, a very influential an accomplished boxer, there is a level of respect.

“When you get in the ring after the first punches are thrown, you go back into your element. He feels your power and you feel his power and see the reason why he is the heavyweight champion of the world.

“You’re out here in a camp, in secret with the heavyweight champion of the world and you’re preparing for a huge mega fight.”

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Usyk erupted into a passionate song after facing Anthony Joshua ahead of their fight on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Box Office

As a former cruiserweight champion, Usyk’s smaller stature has been ridiculed by heavyweight rivals such as Tyson Fury, the newly retired WBC king.

But Usyk has relished jousting with giants as he seeks to bewilder his bigger foes with an unrelenting punch output.

“The thing about Usyk, he would run up his numbers on you,” said Akpejiori.

“By the end of the first round, you realise he is throwing about a hundred punches on you.

“He would do that for the next 11 rounds, with no slowing in tempo. That’s the kind of guy he is.

“I wouldn’t say he has the same punching power as Deontay Wilder has, but he has a speed that no heavyweight has. His tempo, his punch output is one that no other heavyweight has.

Oleksandr Usyk

Image: Usyk unsettles opponents with a high punch output, says Raphael Akpejiori

“He also has some size, although he’s a small man as a heavyweight, he’s really not a small man when you step in the boxing ring.”

A left hand from Usyk rocked Joshua onto his heels in the third round at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The home favourite had been startled by the southpaw’s pace and precision.

“He’s super-fast, really, really fast”, admitted Akpejiori.

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Usyk displayed his cat-like reflexes with a stunning coin trick at the media workout

“The thing about Usyk is you hardly ever see his punches. Three punches will hit you before you realise what hit you and how to adjust to them.”

Joshua punished his own sparring partners, according to camp insiders, while forging a game-plan with Garcia which is expected to result in an early onslaught.

A string of opponents have been demolished by Joshua before, so why not Usyk?

“I don’t know if aggression is the answer for AJ, but I’ll tell you that aggression is not the answer against Usyk.

“I think Usyk deals well with aggression. He has an amazing game-plan for whatever aggressive tactics AJ is going to come out with.

“He has first-class coaches, they study the game, study the sport, and they’ve done a good job responding to every move and counter move that we’ve put out there in sparring.

“It’s hard to be aggressive against Usyk. He comes with a lot of dexterity with his feet, with his size, his speed. You can only be aggressive with something that you can stand in front of.

“Can you catch Usyk? It’s very hard to hit a very slick-footed human being. It’s like chasing a rat around the room. You can only hit the rat if you can catch it.

“May the best man win.”

Akpejiori was pictured on Usyk’s social media in a line-up of fellow sparring partners.

But the Miami-based contender wants much more than a reminder of tutorials with Usyk.

“After this camp, it felt like I can fight for a world title straight away,” says Akpejiori, who has 13 knockouts on his 14-fight unbeaten record.

“Now I really believe that I can really do something in the heavyweight division in boxing.

“Seeing my personal improvement over the number of weeks I was there with Usyk.

“I have a greater understanding of the sport in the heat of sparring with Usyk. I truly believe my time is near. It won’t take long until I challenge for a world title.”

Anthony Joshua’s huge heavyweight rematch against Oleksandr Usyk is on Saturday August 20, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book Usyk vs Joshua 2 now!

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