Oleksandr Usyk has defended Anthony Joshua over his controversial reaction following his defeat to the Ukrainian fighter in their world heavyweight title bout.
Joshua said he let himself down after grabbing the microphone from Usyk and embarking on a rant in the aftermath of his split decision loss in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, last month.
Usyk's victory meant he retained his WBA, WBO and IBF titles after initially beating Joshua in London last September, and he has now said the British fighter's response was "just emotional."
"I cannot say his behavior was a disgrace, it was just emotional," Usyk said. "I don't think he wanted to offend me.
"I think he was just overwhelmed, it was too much to take, and he just started ranting.
"But I don't have any rancour towards him and I want to tell people that they shouldn't hold it against him -- he didn't do anything bad.
"Emotions took over him and he just spurted those words, but later he told me it was OK. Don't judge him for that. Instead, he needs support and reassurance."
Usyk, 35, insisted Joshua still has a future in top-level boxing, saying: "Of course, he does. Why not? What nonsense.
"OK, he has lost, so what? It's not lethal. It's just a small respite to do some homework."
He also said his highly anticipated bout against Tyson Fury would not happen before the end of the year.
"It won't happen this year, that's for sure," Usyk said.
"I'm totally healthy and don't have any injuries, but I have old traumas which have resurfaced, and which need to be treated. I will need up to two months to recuperate."