“I believe I can give our people one hour,” said Vasyl Lomachenko, in broken English, days before his fight with Devin Haney at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. “Change the situation in their minds with the war, into something positive. Positive emotion. I try just thinking about – what’s happening with us – it’s all from God. Which helps.”

The Ukrainian would speak of God again the following day when wearing a black t-shirt that read “Bless the lord, Psalm 103” – and when perhaps for the first time Haney, who on both days also spoke of Allah, realised for the first time that they have common ground beyond getting paid to fight.

It was Russia’s invasion of Lomachenko’s country that contributed to Haney’s career being transformed by his two victories over George Kambosos Jnr, after Lomachenko had rejected the opportunity to fight the Australian so that he could remain at home and be available to take up arms.

He resumed his career in October in New York when outpointing Jamaine Ortiz two months after Oleksandr Usyk won his rematch with Anthony Joshua, and when more relevantly both fighters, amid growing confidence in their under-siege country’s ability to repel their aggressors, were encouraged to fight to raise awareness of the atrocities being committed, and ultimately to give their troubled nation a lift.

“I made a phone call to Vasiliy, and said, ‘Look, we have an opportunity to go and fight Kambosos’,” said Lomachenko’s manager Egis Klimas of the fight in June 2022 that was turned down. “The answer was, ‘All I can see right now is our country being bombed; people getting killed. Everybody needs me here. I’m sorry’.

“I said, ‘You know this will be your last opportunity [to become an undisputed champion]?’, and he said, ‘If it’s meant to be, that’s what’s meant to be; my decision is to stay here’.”

That Lomachenko is in Vegas to fight Haney is regardless a demonstration of the world’s changing attitude towards what is happening in his country, even if it is not something the 35-year-old has any desire to leave behind. Little over a year ago in the same city Russia’s Dmitrii Bivol fought Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at a time when his involvement in so high profile a fight felt vulgar. Since then – which was likely even recognised by those involved in that promotion – Russians have continued to fight without resistance and, by extension, deliver propaganda coups on behalf of a remorseless leader responsible for ensuring that so many others continue to die.

“We’re 16 months into it and now people don’t give a shit,” Russ Anber, the respected cutsman for both Usyk and Lomachenko, told Boxing News. “It’s not even on the news anymore.

“Would you have had an easier opportunity than beating Kambosos? The war breaks out and he doesn’t go.

“He did something that nobody would have done – made that decision. ‘I can get out of a war-torn country and go to Australia in what might be one of the easiest match-ups of my career or stay at home and possibly be on the frontline.’ He didn’t hesitate. He could have – it wasn’t like they didn’t try to convince him. ‘You should go, Loma.’ But he chose not to.

“Every time we see each other [the war is mentioned]. With Usyk, before the Joshua fight [in August 2022]. With Loma, we were in New York before the war, and we were talking about what was going on and how [Russian president Vladimir] Putin was putting missiles [in aggressive locations] and starting to plan things. Loma was explaining a lot of stuff about what was going on and the different war propaganda, and the different views of what was happening.

“It’s torn him. It hurts him a lot. He’s a proud Ukrainian. He understands how sometimes public figures can be used as puppets in war propaganda. It’s very sad that you’re not getting the depth of the man [given his lack of English] – and I know that frustrates him a lot. His brain is spinning and he wants to speak in depth – with real profoundness and intelligence – and sometimes he can’t, and that bothers him [too].

“The importance of a hero, despite what’s going on, puts the Ukraine on the map with a feel-good result. How can it not be important? How can it not be good? On the front page of the papers over there – Loma defeating Haney. You’ve got two in him and Usyk doing it – it’s hero stuff.”

It was in July 2018 when with tensions already escalating between their two countries, Usyk travelled to Moscow to convincingly outbox Russia’s Murat Gassiev and left as the undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world.

Lomachenko was by then already widely recognised as the world’s finest active fighter, and yet for all of the success that was then so easy to take for granted, it is the escapism and unity delivered to those made homeless by Vladimir Putin and mourning relatives and friends – and the inspiration two such resilient national heroes can provide – that counts.

When Usyk again defeated Joshua – the fighter who retired his compatriot Wladimir Klitschko – in a pay-per-view fight made free to Ukrainians, he also so admirably conquered an opponent he had been told he ought to fear in addition to the powers that be.

If Haney-Lomachenko is displayed in the same underground subways transformed into cinemas for sheltering children and Lomachenko records his finest victory on an occasion for which he is an even bigger underdog, for the duration of so stirring a triumph his fellow Ukrainians may even feel free.

On Thursday evening in the MGM Grand BN watched Lomachenko walk through the lobby untroubled, largely because of his small frame and the fact that instead of an entourage he travelled with a solitary friend.

When at Friday’s weigh-in the 24-year-old Haney towered over him at the same arena at which they will fight, Lomachenko smiled at him with the same knowing smile he had at their face off 48 hours earlier. There stood a fighter with the knowledge that Haney is nearing his biggest fight, and that as his opponent he perhaps can relish some respite from his on the other side of the world.