Oleksandr Usyk Reveals Why He Returned to Boxing
For the greater portion of 2022, Ukrainian unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (20-0, 13KO) has been a fighter on numerous battlefronts. Following the Russian invasion of his homeland in February, Usyk made a mad dash back home to protect all that was dear to him, upending his training and rematch plans for former unified champion Anthony Joshua. Ultimately, he would return and defeat Joshua in said rematch. Now, during a talk at Web Summit 2022 in Lisbon, the freedom fighter has shared the experience that motivated him to shoulder his country’s cause in the ring instead of in the trenches.
Oleksandr Usyk was away from home when news of the Russian invasion hit. Since he could not move his mind away from the strife in Ukraine, he decided to drop everything else and return to his family and fight alongside them.
“So at the beginning, I forgot about boxing though I kept on training. So I had a fight programmed for spring with Anthony Joshua. I cancelled it because I understood that my place was in Kyiv, protecting the people and giving help for those that needed it.
At first, I wanted to evacuate my family because I have three kids. But, when I talked to my wife, she told me, ‘no, I’m not going anywhere because this is where my home is; I will stay here and fight for it.'”
Sometime in March, Bob Arum shared information revealing that the Ukrainian government had made exceptions that would allow Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko to depart from the military and return to boxing. However, admissions from Usyk now reveal that his fellow soldiers, not his government, were the tinder that relit his boxing fire.
“I went to a military hospital where the fighters from the frontline came. They were wounded, some of them lost their legs and arms, and they told me, ‘listen Oleksandr, you need to fight and win against Joshua because we need this inspirational victory for us.’
I thought for myself then, in the army, I would be just one more fighter whilst fighting. Boxing, I can take the message to the world.”
THE VOICE OF UKRAINE
Throughout the talk, Usyk would shed light on other efforts he continues to champion as his homeland endures drone attacks and daily blackouts. He particularly noted his role as an ambassador for United 24, an initiative launched by president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to help rebuild houses destroyed in the invasion.
Before ending the segment, Usyk was asked to bear his badge as “The Voice of Ukrainian Victory” to rally his countrymen to victory. After expressing his gratitude to God and his love for his family as motivators, he delivered on what was asked.
“This feeling, this joy, it allows us to live our life the right way. I, myself, I keep on fighting everyday and I keep on smiling and I never judge anyone for anything that they do. I just keep on fighting, keep on going, and I keep on living my life the way I see it.
One should ask, ‘but you’re an athlete, you’re a boxer, you’re a tough guy.’ And, I will answer, ‘I even beat my opponents with love.’
I don’t feel a savage hate or anger; its a sports anger. Love each other, smile, and glory to Ukraine.”
Regarding his next boxing move, Oleksandr Usyk has placed priority on facing WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury for the undisputed crown. However, the IBF has recently mandated Usyk’s attention shift towards top contender Filip Hrgovic. If undisputed is the goal for Usyk, safe bets are that Hrgovic will be the next opponent for the unified world champion to overcome.
By: Adrian Tullock