Sport Oleksandr Usyk forms unique bond with West Belfast teen ahead of fight
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Boxing superstar Oleksandr Usyk will carry some Irish fighting spirit into the ring this weekend - thanks to a West Belfast teenager.
Young Michael Marlow sent Usyk a letter along with a hurling stick and sliotar ahead of the Ukrainian boxer's fight with Derek Chisora on Saturday.
Michael, 13, is a massive fan of the former undisputed cruiserweight champion, whose previous opponents include former world champion Tony Bellew.
There were a few bemused looks when Usyk attended Thursday's press conference with the hurl and sliotar.
When asked where he got them, he replied "it was a gift from Mikey Marlow in Holy Trinity in Ireland".
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Michael is a boxer with Holy Trinity Boxing Club in West Belfast, and his father Mark says his son "is sort of obsessed" with Usyk.
"Michael is obviously big into his boxing, and also Soviet history, and Ukraine and Russia. So they gelled together and Michael just zoned in on Oleksandr Usyk. I suppose it was the natural fit," Mark added.
"Michael had been training flat out himself for about seven months and then lockdown happened. That's when he started wondering what Usyk had been doing during the pandemic, and how he was coping.
"Michael asked me if we could get in touch with Usyk, and he initially tried on Facebook and Instagram but had no joy.
"Then we contacted Rival Boxing Gear who supply Usyk with boxing equipment.
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"We eventually got through to Russ Anber, who is Rival Boxing's CEO, who said he would look into it for us, but we didn't hear anything for a while.
"And then on Thursday Russ phoned me and said he would set something up. He said he would deliver Michael's letter to Usyk, and asked if we wanted to send anything over to get signed."
Michael, who also plays hurling for Belfast club St Galls decided to send over a hurling stick and sliotar, which he bought with his own pocket money.
They also sent over a Holy Trinity boxing vest which Usyk signed for the teenage boxer.
"Michael has been on cloud nine ever since," Mark added.
"He has been shadow boxing for about two days straight now.
"He is completely made up, and seeing Usyk with the hurl and sliotar on Sky Sports just made it even better.
"We can't thank Russ enough for helping out. It is much appreciated."
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