Boxing News: “I said right away that this person is going to be a problem!” Oleksandr Usyk possessed enigmatic boxing skills, but he also enjoys a ‘war,’ according to former sparring partner Mikael Lawal.
Mikael Lawal claims Oleksandr Usyk is “like a ghost” when an opponent tries to land a blow, but after a sparring ‘battle,’ he gained the Ukrainian star’s respect.
On September 25, Usyk will seek to hand Anthony Joshua a surprise defeat in their world heavyweight title bout.
Lawal has sparred Usyk ahead of a cruiserweight unification bout with Mairis Briedis in 2018. He fights Steven Ward a week later on October 2.
“They contacted my manager; I believe they must have heard of me,” Lawal explained. “I was keeping a close eye on him. The first thing I stated was that this person is going to be a problem.
“I used to crack jokes about how this guy looks like a ghost!
“It [in sparring] went back and forth. He had a lot of regard for me. When I first went in for sparring, he assigned me to spar him last. There are around four different sparring partners, and he placed me last.
“It’s like, ‘I’ll use him to warm up,’ or something like that. I believe that after I and him sparred, I gave it to him for a little while, and then he put me in second place the second time.
“Obviously, he assumed he’d warm up with the first guy before going to war with me and him. That’s how he kept it for the rest of his life. We simply sparred, which he thoroughly enjoyed. That’s why he dialled my number once more.”
Usyk’s preferred sparring partner became Mikael Lawal, who told Sky Sports: “I’ve returned to two of his camps.
“He’s a decent guy who’s also funny. He’s constantly cracking jokes. He’s a down-to-earth guy with a humble demeanour. ‘If I can mix it with the likes of him, I can absolutely mix it with anyone,’ I was saying.
“Obviously, sparring is not the same as fighting. I’m not taking too much away from it, but I’ve gotten a lot out of it.”
Usyk won all of the world titles at cruiserweight before moving up a division to fight Joshua for the WBO world title at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Lawal has risen through the ranks in Usyk’s former weight class and will meet Ward in a final eliminator for the British cruiserweight title at The SSE Arena, Wembley, on the same night as Chris Eubank.
“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to my whole life,” Lawal remarked. “I’m looking forward to finally putting on a show.
“I don’t think there’s a boxer alive who doesn’t fantasise about getting that spectacular knockout, but he’ll be there to fight.
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