Oleksandr Usyk: Ukrainian King of Cruiserweight Boxing

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Ukrainian Boxer Oleksandr Usyk

Ukrainian master Oleksandr Usyk is the first boxer in history to hold all four major world championships at cruiserweight. He’s also included in the top 10 boxers of the world by the influential BoxRec network. How did the 31-year-old Ukrainian achieve such a major success?

Beginning of Career

Young Oleksandr UsykOleksandr Usyk was born in Simferopol, Crimea. Since the young age, Usyk showed interest in active leisure and attended classes of folk dancing, football and judo. Maybe his fate would've been different if he stayed a member of the junior football team SC Tavria Simferopol but young Oleksandr didn't find that spark in football.

However, he was very interested in boxing. His first boxing training ended in complete defeat. The 15-year-old nevertheless didn't give up on the sport and began grueling workouts that lasted at least 4 hours. The efforts paid off: at 19, Oleksandr debuted at Ukrainian Championships and won his first amateur match. He then was called to the national team.

In 2008, Usyk competed at the Summer Olympics in Beijing. While the young man outpointed Chinese boxer Yushan Nijiati by 23–4 score, in the end, he lost to the Italian Clemente Russo by 4–7 score. According to Usyk, at the time he didn't look at boxing as something serious and didn't prepare for the matches hard enough.

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First Major Success

Oleksandr Usyk with Ukrainian flagThree years later Usyk moved back to heavyweight after his defeat in Beijing and beat two opponents, Artur Beterbiev from Russia and Teymur Mammadov from Azerbaijan, to qualify for the Olympics. His second Olympics held in London in 2012 were a beginning of series of victories: Usyk won the gold medal, outscoring Clemente Russo, to whom he lost in the past, by 6-3 score in Round 3. The match was also memorable thanks to Oleksandr's dancing skills - audience appreciated the traditional Ukrainian dance hopak that the boxer performed upon his victory.
He turned pro at the age of 26. Various companies offered deals to the young champion but Usyk chose to sign a contract with K2 Promotions founded by the Klitschko brothers. His professional debut match ended in an astonishing fifth-round knockout, which defeated a Mexican boxer Felipe Romero. In the following months, Oleksandr had a string of successful matches, defeating his opponents with knockdowns in the 3d round.

In December 2015, Usyk gained victory in a match in his motherland - the win over Cuban boxer Pedro Rodriguez brought the Ukrainian boxer on the first position at World Boxing Organization (WBO).

World Championship

Oleksandr Usyk won the world championshipOleksandr's first match as a cruiserweight champion was a long, grueling competition with the Polish boxer Krzysztof Głowacki. Usyk challenged the undefeated before fighter to compete in his native Poland. The tenth match for Oleksandr turned out to be a win after 12 rounds that gained unanimous high scores from the judges. Thanks to his excellent footwork and hand speed, Usyk became the World cruiserweight champion.

In 2017, Usyk parted ways with his initial trainer James Ali Bashir and prepared to the upcoming match with Anatoly Lomachenko. Oleksandr defeated his world champion title in a match against Michael Hunter. Despite the first three rounds being rather controlled by Michael, Usyk managed to get the upper hand and secure his position as the world champion throughout 12 rounds. The match was transmitted by HBO and drew the attention of more than 770 thousand viewers.

Later that year, Usyk and 7 famous cruiserweights competed in the 8-man bracket-style tournament. The men fought for Muhammad Ali trophy, a prestigious boxing award. Oleksandr met Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis and his long-time opponent Murat Gassiev to have three consecutive wins by unanimous decision from the jury. This victory gained Oleksandr Usyk the title of the first in the history of boxing four-belt cruiserweight champion.

So far in his professional career, Usyk had no losses either by knockout or judge decision. The Ukrainian boxer keeps on with the extensive workouts and training to astonish the fans and world in future.

Photo sources: 112.ua, espresso.tv, 234fight.com, worldboxingsuperseries.com. All images belong to their rightful authors.

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