The evening clatter and chatter of a French restaurant crackles down the line as the man who made a dog’s dinner of British heavyweight dreams settles in for a bite to eat.
It is a feast fit for a king and Oleksandr Usyk has earnt the right to indulge.
‘Tonight, the chef of the restaurant is cooking food from his region, where he is originally from,’ Usyk explains from Ukraine. ‘We are not ordering anything – they are just serving us the food that he cooked.’
That is one benefit of life among the giants: heavyweight champions can’t surrender their title to the scales.
Oleksandr Usyk has spoken to Sportsmail about his boxing plans after his Anthony Joshua win
Usyk (right) is the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO title holder after beating Joshua (left) last month
‘That’s how we are spending a romantic evening with my wife and my friends,’ Usyk adds. The 34-year-old is speaking to Sportsmail via his promoter – and translator – Alex Krassyuk.
Briefly, though, Usyk breaks rank to explain in English: ‘My love eat, it’s Italian… the pizza, pasta, yes!’
Restaurants have become a familiar refuge in the weeks since he tormented – and nearly toppled – Anthony Joshua.
Most fighters would dine out for a lifetime on such a masterful victory.
Shame most could only dream of boxing with such poetic licence to blur. Particularly in front of 66,000 supporters baying for blood at a sizzling Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Fortunately Usyk, boxing’s unbeaten road warrior, has grown rather used to leaving scorched earth behind his shuffling feet.
And so, even with compatriot Vitali Klitschko at ringside, victory over Joshua offered little cause for extravagance.
The Ukrainian admitted he could not sleep after beating Joshua in London on September 25
‘We went back to the hotel.
I had my meal – my people ordered me some tasty food – I was in my room, I went to (bed) but I couldn’t fall asleep until the morning,’ Usyk says.
How did he toast capturing three portions of the world heavyweight title? ‘I was eating chicken soup and buckwheat with mushrooms.’
Hardly the tales of hedonism that followed AJ’s previous defeat, is it?
Parties, parades and marriage proposals followed Andy Ruiz Jnr’s stunning win in New York.
‘That’s absolutely correct,’ Usyk says. ‘I’m not going to celebrate it like Andy Ruiz did!’
His dinner-time tipple suggests as much: ‘Everyone is enjoying the flavour of wine and I keep enjoying the flavour of still water.’
British boxing has spent recent weeks clearing the rubble of an undisputed fight that so nearly was.
And perhaps never will be. As side dishes go, however, Usyk vs Tyson Fury seems palatable enough.
Now, only a rematch with Joshua stands between the Ukrainian and that shot at immortality. It would be a fascinating clash of boxing brains and barmy characters.
‘A very interesting fight,’ Usyk says.
More to his taste, certainly, than Fury’s recent win over Deontay Wilder.
Joshua is not the only Briton in Usyk’s sights, with Tyson Fury (right) a potential opponent too
One of the great heavyweight nights?
Not for the new WBA, WBO and IBF king.
‘I did watch the fight but I didn’t think much (of) it,’ he says. ‘They just wanted to kill each other.’
Usyk chose to celebrate his own win without any Vegas pool parties or celebrity DJs, either.
Instead he sought to make up for lost time – and repay the cost of his dreams.
Very few fighters have cleaned up at cruiserweight before conquering the land of the giants. None managed it without sacrificing the quieter life. No wonder, shortly after the final bell in London, the Ukrainian yearned to water his apple trees and resume the school run.
Usyk revealed he did watch Fury’s win over Deontay Wilder this month – but did not enjoy it
‘I’ve been spending time hemp with rosemary oil my kids,’ the 34-year-old explains.
‘I’ve been fishing, walking around doing nothing. Just relaxing… nothing changed much. I keep thanking the Lord for everything I have in my life. I keep cheering up, loving life and spending my time doing things I love.’
They include more of a watching brief.
‘My son plays football,’ Usyk says. And so he has been a regular on the touchline at Kyrylo’s recent matches.
‘He is playing in defence, sometimes he’s moving to forward and he dreams to become world champion.’
Just like his father, then.Across 19 professional fights, no one has found a way to cope with Usyk’s ability to glide between back foot and front.
Usyk (above) has been celebrating the Joshua win in Ukraine with his family and children
It begs the question: who is the harsher critic?
Does Usyk give his son a harder time at football than he receives for his own ring exploits?
‘We haven’t got any criticism in our relationship – he’s too young to criticise his father!’ Usyk says. ‘And I’m not going to criticise my son, I’m just going to help him.’
Normal service resumed recently when the Ukrainian’s three kids watched their father fight on foreign soil.
Victory in London followed world title wins in Gdansk, Berlin, Riga, California, Maryland, Moscow and Manchester.
‘My daughter watched it live because it was on quite late and my sons watched it delayed,’ Usyk explains.
So what was their verdict when he returned home after three months in camp?
‘They were just giving me hugs because I came back really late, even early in the morning, and when they left to school, I was sleeping,’ he says.
‘In the evening, when they came back, they just gave me hugs and congratulated me.’
It won’t be long before he walks out that door once more. Joshua has triggered his right to an immediate rematch, slated for spring 2022.
Joshua (left) has triggered a rematch clause to take Usyk on towards the start of 2022
Andy Ruiz Jr (above) beat Joshua in 2019 but lost to the British heavyweight six months later
Usyk still hopes for a glorious homecoming to Kiev but knows only too well that boxing pays less heed to champion’s rights than decimal points.
At least no amount of money or home advantage can erase the memory of those 36 minutes – for either man.
Three linger in Usyk’s mind more than most: ‘The 12th round,’ he says, before unleashing one of his mischievous, ominous cackles.
‘It was the final and the decisive round… it was a difficult one.’
For Joshua, more so than the challenger – who seemed on the verge of a stunning stoppage in those closing seconds. No surprise, perhaps, that AJ is pondering change.
The dethroned champion has been on a road trip across America, stopping at various gyms in search of possible new trainers ahead of next year’s rematch.
The development has not been lost on Usyk – even during his own tour of local restaurants.
‘Of course I saw the videos because we are collecting all the information,’ he says. ‘But I don’t think anything about this because it’s Anthony’s business – let him do whatever he wants.
Thank God I have everything (sorted) in my team – every member is in place so it’s all good.’
The British boxer (left) has been on a road trip across America looking for a new trainer
Footage of Joshua hitting stationary targets at a gun range has also emerged.
Some cruel observers suggest that pistol represents AJ’s only chance of regaining his belts. Usyk has a counter for that, as well.
‘I have two guns,’ he says, with all the self-assurance of a fighter at ease with his own pre-fight routine.
Usyk acclimatised to fight week in London by watching Peaky Blinders. But those final hours were spent at church, at lunch, and in bed. Another cackle tumbles down the phone as he explains the contents of those prayers.
‘I was just thanking the Lord that everything is good in my life.’He has been rather generous over the past decade, in which time the Ukrainian has won Olympic gold and everything on offer in the paid ranks.
Now 34, how much longer will he go on?
‘I wouldn’t like to speak about this but in my mind, everything is sorted out already,’ Usyk says. ‘It’s not yet decided but it’s still a plan.’
Acting is another world he wants to conquer but the Ukrainian previously snubbed Sylvester Stallone’s attempts to cast him in Creed II.
Usyk’s eyes won’t ever be drawn too far over the horizon. Even now, when a possible undisputed fight with Fury hangs within reach.
‘No, no. I’m not a predictor,’ Usyk says.
Instead, focus remains on the task at hand. And the next plate on its way.