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.