Finding Oleksandr Usyk, the Biggest Walloper in the Ukrainian Triad

Birds of a feather indeed flock together even in Ukraine.

Oleksandr Usyk was one of a trio of Ukrainians discovered and signed by manager Egis Klimas. And it was all three fighter’s dream and goal to fight on a televised card in the U.S.

Usyk (11-0, 10 KOs) defends the WBO cruiserweight title against American Michael Hunter (12-0, 8 KOs) on Saturday April 8, at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. HBO will televise.

The two other Ukrainian buddies Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Gvozdyk are also on the television portion of the fight card. In a way, you can’t explain the story of their discovery without including all of them.

So says their manager Klimas.

“Usyk came here together with Lomachenko and team from Ukraine. I was chasing Lomachenko. I put all my strength in Ukraine to find him. I tried every single possibility I can. Of course I heard about Oleksandr Usyk as well, but at that point Lomachenko was interesting to everybody,” said Klimas, a Russian boxing manager who looked throughout Ukraine for the trio of boxers who were the envy of boxing in Eastern Europe.

Klimas tried asking anyone and everyone to find a clue on the whereabouts of Lomachenko and his friends.

“Basically I found a friend of mine who had a friend, who had a friend, who knew a taxi driver and this guy knew that and anyway. Somehow I met the person who was president of Kiev Boxing Federation. He knew very well all of these guys,” Klimas said to a throng of reporters several weeks ago.

After conversing back and forth Klimas invited the Ukrainian boxers to visit the U.S.

“The next day he called me said we’re going to come but we’re going to bring 14 people. I said God dang. I thought to myself this is a pretty big investment,” said Klimas who knew that other boxing promoters and managers from England and Europe were conversing with the Ukrainian boxers. “I wanted them to meet people in New York and in Los Angeles and I wanted to take them to Vegas. I thought to myself about it and I said I’ll gamble. I’ll take that shot.”

All 14 Ukrainians flew across the Atlantic and landed in New York City.

“We met in New York. We went to Sands Casino in Pennsylvania where Sergey (Kovalev) was fighting. I think he was fighting (Cornelius) White,” remembers Klimas.  “We met there and (Main Events promoter) Kathy Duva fell in love with him. She said ‘I like Usyk but I don’t think I can do much with Lomachenko, but I like Usyk’.”

From New York they traveled to Los Angeles.

“We went to Golden Boy office and met with Eric (Gomez) there. Richard Schaefer was still working with Golden Boy. The guys were so happy. Then we went to Las Vegas and came to the office of Top Rank,” said Klimas adding that Bob Arum was not there. “It was only Brad Goodman and Todd DuBoef but Bob was in L.A….So Bruce Trampler told Bob Arum we have Lomachenko in the office. He didn’t believe we had Lomachenko in the office. He flew us to Los Angeles. And we came and talked with him. That was our first meeting.”

Eventually Lomachenko was signed by Top Rank but the cruiserweight Usyk was not.

“At that time the cruiserweight division was dead. If they take you (Usyk) it’s only because of Lomachenko. So I told Oleksandr, my advice to you is to go back home to Ukraine and you start there. And you show what you can do and then come back here to the United States. When you are ready then we will bring you back to the United States,” Klimas advised the Ukrainian cruiserweight.

Victory in Poland

Last September, in Poland, the 198-pound southpaw Usyk out-boxed Krzysztof Glowacki over 12 rounds to take the WBO cruiserweight title by unanimous decision. And now Usyk is in sunny Southern California.

It made sense that K2 Promotions owned by brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko would take an interest in Usyk. He was recently signed and basically given an HBO audition to fight on Gennady “GGG” Golovkin’s fight card in the Inglewood Forum last December.

Fans were not pleased by the cruiserweight title fight for eight rounds but when Usyk finally figured out the herky-jerky style of South Africa’s Thabiso Mchunu in the ninth round, the ending was swift and emphatic. And the crowd was finally tamed with the knockout win.

Knockouts are always the flavor of the day in the world of prizefighting. It also convinced HBO’s boxing wizards to make this triple Ukrainian fight card.

“We never get an over-supply of power prizefighters,” said HBO’s Tony Walker.

All three dreamed of fighting in front of an American audience. And when it comes to power supplies, Usyk packs the biggest wallop.

“These three fighters from Ukraine when you add up their talent for this show it’s a tremendous exhibition of talent,” said Tom Loeffler, director of K2 Promotions that promotes Usyk.

They always come in threes wrote English author William Turner in 1545. Even in Ukraine.

Photo left to right: Tony Walker, Tom Loeffler, Oleksandr Usyk, Egis Klimas

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

COMMENTS

-stormcentre :

Good stuff David. Looking at the odds for Usyk V Hunter doesn't really inspire the thought that Hunter will see the final bell. As most have pitched Oleksandr Usyk with a better than 90% of winning. I can't see anything in Hunter's experience thus far that will prepare him for Usyk. Still, a payday is a payday, and a title shot is just that. Cheers,
Storm. :) :)


-oubobcat :

Usyk is as skilled a big man as there is in the sport. He received a lot of hype from hardcore fans early in his career and fought for a title in only his 9th pro fight against a skilled undefeated fighter in that fighter's home country. The expectations were so high though for Usyk that ironically though he won and did so by with relative ease some were disappointed that he didn't bulldoze his opponent like he had others in the early part of his career. In his next fight and HBO debut against Mchunu, again Usyk was not as dominant as some thought be'd be. He even lost a few rounds early before coming on and methodically breaking down his opponent. But looking closer at the fight and foe, Mchunu was a skilled defensive wiz and tough fighter for anyone in the sport to look good against. It was a testament to Usyk that he was willing to face such an opponent when many others simply would avoid such a skilled defensive cutey. Usyk is going to win and going to look sensational tonight. The opponent is set for him to do just that and a big step down from the last two fighters Usyk faced. Those who jumped off the bandwagon will be back on this evening.


-oubobcat :

Usyk is as skilled a big man as there is in the sport. He received a lot of hype from hardcore fans early in his career and fought for a title in only his 9th pro fight against a skilled undefeated fighter in that fighter's home country. The expectations were so high though for Usyk that ironically though he won and did so by with relative ease some were disappointed that he didn't bulldoze his opponent like he had others in the early part of his career. In his next fight and HBO debut against Mchunu, again Usyk was not as dominant as some thought be'd be. He even lost a few rounds early before coming on and methodically breaking down his opponent. But looking closer at the fight and foe, Mchunu was a skilled defensive wiz and tough fighter for anyone in the sport to look good against. It was a testament to Usyk that he was willing to face such an opponent when many others simply would avoid such a skilled defensive cutey. Usyk is going to win and going to look sensational tonight. The opponent is set for him to do just that and a big step down from the last two fighters Usyk faced. Those who jumped off the bandwagon will be back on this evening.


-stormcentre :

Usyk did well. He looked like he wanted to get the rounds in. Hunter was lucky in the final rounds; but he also (to some extent) showed early on that Usk was not super human. It's going to take a really good fighter to beat Usyk. Perhaps Beterbiev when/if he moves up. Perhas not. Time will tell. Cheers, Storm. :) :) :)


-ArneK. :

Artur Beterbiev is a very interesting pick. Nice call. They fought at least twice in the amateurs. Usyk won both matches of which I am aware, but both bouts were very close. Beterbiev eliminated Michael Hunter in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympic games, so he's (theoretically) a notch above the guy that Usyk just fought. Usyk/Beterbiev would come with a lot of political baggage as it would pit a Russian against a Ukrainian. I'm not sure this fight could sell in the U.S. unless it was noosed to a high profile fight or fights, but from the standpoint of a hardcore boxing fan, it would be a very attractive pairing.


-ArneK. :

Artur Beterbiev is a very interesting pick. Nice call. They fought at least twice in the amateurs. Usyk won both matches of which I am aware, but both bouts were very close. Beterbiev eliminated Michael Hunter in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympic games, so he's (theoretically) a notch above the guy that Usyk just fought. Usyk/Beterbiev would come with a lot of political baggage as it would pit a Russian against a Ukrainian. I'm not sure this fight could sell in the U.S. unless it was noosed to a high profile fight or fights, but from the standpoint of a hardcore boxing fan, it would be a very attractive pairing.


-oubobcat :

Artur Beterbiev is a very interesting pick. Nice call. They fought at least twice in the amateurs. Usyk won both matches of which I am aware, but both bouts were very close. Beterbiev eliminated Michael Hunter in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympic games, so he's (theoretically) a notch above the guy that Usyk just fought. Usyk/Beterbiev would come with a lot of political baggage as it would pit a Russian against a Ukrainian. I'm not sure this fight could sell in the U.S. unless it was noosed to a high profile fight or fights, but from the standpoint of a hardcore boxing fan, it would be a very attractive pairing.
I love the thought of a Usyk-Beterbiev fight. But unfortunately their respective paths may not cross. Usyk has openly discussed moving up to heavyweight. Though such a move won't take place right away, it is also not that far off. There are also plenty of options for Usyk at Cruiserweight. I expect next time out we see a showcase for Usyk followed by one of those names (Briedis, Gassiev or Lebedev). Beterbiev seems focused at remaining at Light Heavyweight for the time being. I think he is focused on securing a bout down the road with Kovalev (regardless of whether Kovalev beats Ward in the rematch). His power at 175 is devastating and he will likely remain in that division for the foreseeable future. Another potential very interesting bout down the road for Beterbiev at 175 would be with Gvozdyk. That could be a lot of fun.


-oubobcat :

Artur Beterbiev is a very interesting pick. Nice call. They fought at least twice in the amateurs. Usyk won both matches of which I am aware, but both bouts were very close. Beterbiev eliminated Michael Hunter in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympic games, so he's (theoretically) a notch above the guy that Usyk just fought. Usyk/Beterbiev would come with a lot of political baggage as it would pit a Russian against a Ukrainian. I'm not sure this fight could sell in the U.S. unless it was noosed to a high profile fight or fights, but from the standpoint of a hardcore boxing fan, it would be a very attractive pairing.
I love the thought of a Usyk-Beterbiev fight. But unfortunately their respective paths may not cross. Usyk has openly discussed moving up to heavyweight. Though such a move won't take place right away, it is also not that far off. There are also plenty of options for Usyk at Cruiserweight. I expect next time out we see a showcase for Usyk followed by one of those names (Briedis, Gassiev or Lebedev). Beterbiev seems focused at remaining at Light Heavyweight for the time being. I think he is focused on securing a bout down the road with Kovalev (regardless of whether Kovalev beats Ward in the rematch). His power at 175 is devastating and he will likely remain in that division for the foreseeable future. Another potential very interesting bout down the road for Beterbiev at 175 would be with Gvozdyk. That could be a lot of fun.


-stormcentre :

Artur Beterbiev is a very interesting pick. Nice call. They fought at least twice in the amateurs. Usyk won both matches of which I am aware, but both bouts were very close. Beterbiev eliminated Michael Hunter in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympic games, so he's (theoretically) a notch above the guy that Usyk just fought. Usyk/Beterbiev would come with a lot of political baggage as it would pit a Russian against a Ukrainian. I'm not sure this fight could sell in the U.S. unless it was noosed to a high profile fight or fights, but from the standpoint of a hardcore boxing fan, it would be a very attractive pairing.
Artur Beterbiev (I believe) is one of the reasons Ward V2 Kovalev just fell into place a little bit quicker.

From Ward's perspective, why be forced to fight Artur and then either;


(i) Possibly get beaten up, regardless of the official outcome which by no means would be a certain positive for Ward.
(ii) Or, continue rumored retirement plans (said to be being considered by Andre prior to Ward V2 Kovalev) prior to any Ward V Beterbiev fight, and in effect then be seen to not go through with fighting a ("perceivably lesser" ranked) "contender".

That's not a good way to complete such a spectacular career for Ward.


(iii) Or, immediately go through with the Ward V Beterbiev fight, and in all likelihood take on more risk (than Sergey).

If Sergey can drop Ward, Artur has a better chance.


(iv) Or, continue rumored retirement plans "after" fighting a (perceivably lesser ranked) "contender" in Beterbiev.

As, almost all of the above options (that in some way involve a Ward V Beterbiev fight) involve more risk, less recognition, and perhaps more importantly far, far, less money.

Look, anything can happen in this sport, and I say that because MK Ultra (Matvey Korobov) was (by Birmingham, other boxing aficionado, and also me) loudly tipped to do big things but for some reason that train got a little derailed . . . . So, for that reason and the fact that Beterbiev has been pushing his body pretty hard for years, you have to be a bit cautious in what you say/forecast. But, unforeseen disasters aside . . . . Beterbiev is an absolute freight train. He can *fluently fight as a lefty or righty, and (unlike many switch hitters) he can split the options/difference that those 2 stances offer either horizontally or vertically. Furthermore, his style - to me - is best described as a deceptively technical brawler; as he likes to fight. And, no doubt that is because the above *features of his skill set provide him with more options than most other guys as soon as they start to engage. It probably doesn't need to be said, but the money, fame, and opportunity on offer with a major title fight against Ward or Kovalev, for Beterbiev; would push him (in all senses) through the roof. He might just be one of the best light heavyweights in the making that we have all seen for a long time; as there's *not a lot Artur doesn't get right when he's boxing. Ward is the kind of guy that (has great insight, great composure, and he really handles himself well in/out of the ring well too, plus he) can adapt. Andre's background is (broadly speaking and without too much analysis) pretty much the equivalent of Beterbiev's also; in the sense where Ward knows the boxing game, its styles, and most of its various techniques all well enough to be able to change up and inhabit a fight game-plan that can probably deal with Beterbiev better than most might. So (at this point) I would not say it's certain Ward would lose to Beterbiev if they fought. I will say that fighting Beterbiev at light heavyweight would certainly be a very difficult task for Ward, due to what I said *above and the fact that whilst Beterbiev has seen/beat a few guys with styles that approximate closely to Ward's . . . . I'm not completely sure that the same applies the other way around for Ward. I can't (right now) remember all Beterbiev's amateur fights with Usyk but whilst (as you say) he beat Hunter at the 2012 Olympic games, I'm pretty sure that's also where he lost to Usyk. I agree that a Usyk V Beterbiev fight may come with some political baggage due to the fact that both guys are seen to come from places that have significant political tension right now. Beterbiev actually has a mixed geographical background/descendancy that's tied to both Dagestan (Russia) and also/originally Chechnya. I'm not sure about how that would impact the promotion (in America) though; not saying you're incorrect - as it could. But if it "was" said to be something that did impact upon any USA based Beterbiev V Usyk promotion, then staging the fight in a relatively neutral location and one that was also politically significant enough to capitalize from what's going on between Russia and Ukraine, is not out of the question. Canada or London would be a sell out. Right now, pound for pound, I see Beterbiev's skills and other fighting traits as being slightly superior to Usyk's. That doesn't mean Beterbiev carries them all up to the weight division that Oleksander Usyk operates in. Doesn't mean he doesn't either. Beterbiev V Stevenson is a great interim match up whilst Ward and Kovalev sort themselves out. Cheers,
Storm. :) :) :)


-deepwater2 :

I love me some Usyk! He is the future of the heavyweights. I fell in love with him while watching him in the Olympics with Loma. He has the crazy eyes. Hunter was underrated for this fight. He was no slouch and looked good until he was outclassed and lucky to finish the fight.


-oubobcat :

I love me some Usyk! He is the future of the heavyweights. I fell in love with him while watching him in the Olympics with Loma. He has the crazy eyes. Hunter was underrated for this fight. He was no slouch and looked good until he was outclassed and lucky to finish the fight.
Hunter had some fights coming up the ladder where he was less than impressive. Though undefeated, most thought once he stepped up would inevitably get exposed. But I like what I saw from Hunter and he made some real improvements. It was the kind of fight that though he lost he showed a lot of improvement and should only get better. With how deep Cruiserweight is right now, we definitely have not seen the last of Hunter in a big fight. The more I think about it, the more I crave a Usyk-Gassiev fight and pray it happens before Usyk moves north to heavy. A fighter with Usyk's skills against such a power puncher who is improving technically each time out working with Abel Sanchez in Gassiev. That is one of the best potential matchups in the sport at the moment and one diehards like me would absolutely salivate over.


-oubobcat :

I love me some Usyk! He is the future of the heavyweights. I fell in love with him while watching him in the Olympics with Loma. He has the crazy eyes. Hunter was underrated for this fight. He was no slouch and looked good until he was outclassed and lucky to finish the fight.
Hunter had some fights coming up the ladder where he was less than impressive. Though undefeated, most thought once he stepped up would inevitably get exposed. But I like what I saw from Hunter and he made some real improvements. It was the kind of fight that though he lost he showed a lot of improvement and should only get better. With how deep Cruiserweight is right now, we definitely have not seen the last of Hunter in a big fight. The more I think about it, the more I crave a Usyk-Gassiev fight and pray it happens before Usyk moves north to heavy. A fighter with Usyk's skills against such a power puncher who is improving technically each time out working with Abel Sanchez in Gassiev. That is one of the best potential matchups in the sport at the moment and one diehards like me would absolutely salivate over.


-Kid Blast :

Hunter had some fights coming up the ladder where he was less than impressive. Though undefeated, most thought once he stepped up would inevitably get exposed. But I like what I saw from Hunter and he made some real improvements. It was the kind of fight that though he lost he showed a lot of improvement and should only get better. With how deep Cruiserweight is right now, we definitely have not seen the last of Hunter in a big fight. The more I think about it, the more I crave a Usyk-Gassiev fight and pray it happens before Usyk moves north to heavy. A fighter with Usyk's skills against such a power puncher who is improving technically each time out working with Abel Sanchez in Gassiev. That is one of the best potential matchups in the sport at the moment and one diehards like me would absolutely salivate over.
Not that impressed with Usyk just yet, but he does have maniac eyes.


-Kid Blast :

Hunter had some fights coming up the ladder where he was less than impressive. Though undefeated, most thought once he stepped up would inevitably get exposed. But I like what I saw from Hunter and he made some real improvements. It was the kind of fight that though he lost he showed a lot of improvement and should only get better. With how deep Cruiserweight is right now, we definitely have not seen the last of Hunter in a big fight. The more I think about it, the more I crave a Usyk-Gassiev fight and pray it happens before Usyk moves north to heavy. A fighter with Usyk's skills against such a power puncher who is improving technically each time out working with Abel Sanchez in Gassiev. That is one of the best potential matchups in the sport at the moment and one diehards like me would absolutely salivate over.
Not that impressed with Usyk just yet, but he does have maniac eyes.