Oleksandr Usyk has departed Ukraine to begin preparations for his heavyweight rematch with Anthony Joshua this summer, according to reports.
Usyk signed up to defend his native country earlier this month after Russian president Vladimir Putin launched an all-out attack on their Eastern European neighbours.
The unified world heavyweight champion has been fighting on the front line after enlisting in the Kyiv Territorial Defence, with photos on social media showing him dressed in full military gear.
Pound-for-pound master and close pal Vasyl Lomachenko has also been battling Russian troops, as have legendary boxing brothers, Wladimir and Vitaly Klitschko.
However, Usyk has now left Ukraine after being given permission by their ministry of defence.
He is contractually obliged to meet Joshua for a second time in his next contest, having ripped the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles from his grasp back in September.
Usyk outclassed the Brit over 12 rounds and came close to stopping him in the dying seconds, before settling for a wide unanimous-decision victory on the scorecards.
Joshua then triggered his rematch clause imminently and a London date in the summer was mooted prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Yet while able-bodied men aged 18 to 60 are under orders to stay within the borders and fight for the country, Usyk has been granted an exemption ‘in the national interest.’
Lomachenko was offered a similar release, only to turn down a potential showdown with unified lightweight champion George Kambosos Jr in order to continue fighting on the front line.
Usyk, though, has headed out of Ukraine as he now looks towards a rematch with Joshua this summer.
He was said to have been reluctant to leave his comrades behind, but amid Joshua’s plans to take on an interim opponent in the meantime, his team felt their future opponent would gain an upper hand ahead of the rematch.
It is believed Usyk will be put through his paces in preparation for the fight at a gym at Oxnard, just outside Los Angeles, where he and Lomachenko have trained in the past.
The 35-year-old expects to be ready to face AJ back in London, with Wembley Stadium in contention to stage their second encounter.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has suggested June as a potential date, although with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations occupying the first week of that month the likeliest date is Saturday the 11th.