Oleksandr Usyk prides himself on being a simple man – a man apathetic to pomp and procession. But the juxtaposition is clear. The unified heavyweight champion of the world’s arms and torso are draped in golden titles and there is nothing “simple” about his achievements inside the boxing ring.
A month a passed since Usyk penned more history into boxing’s annals. Sitting on a 19-0 professional record, the Ukrainian has now collected seven of the eight ‘recognised’ world titles across the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions and is widely regarded as a key conversational cog at the top of the mythical pound-for-pound debate.
The 34-year-old slurps on a Ukrainian staple of borshch soup as he talks to Bad Left Hook via translation about a whirlwind month in the sport – despite a love for pizza and pasta, Usyk opts for home, hearty comforts, in stark contradiction to the last man who handed a defeat to Anthony Joshua. You’d expect everything to have changed, yet Oleksandr is the epitome of a grounded and understated man.
“Life hasn’t changed much since the win over Joshua,” Usyk explains. “Yes, it was a huge step forward for me in my career, but there are many more ahead.”
Usyk’s unanimous points decision victory over the Briton was the most recent in a long line of dominant away performances. The term “road warrior” is often saved for more dogged, plucky, unsuccessful fighters, but the Ukrainian has marked his territory with authority in a number of champion’s back yards, dating back to Krzysztof Glowacki in 2016.
“I prefer to avoid comparisons,” he admits after being pushed to rank his world championship victories. “Every fight is amazing in its own way. This was an incredible fight, beyond doubt [vs Joshua]. And as I’ve said – there are many great ones to look forward to.”
“This fight wasn’t as easy as a few people are making out – I feel this impression is misleading despite winning via unanimous decision. The fight was excellent, Joshua is a brilliant fighter.”
Usyk was a picture of calm inside the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Dressed in what resembled a spacesuit thanks to his design team at JAXET, he marched to the ring confidently, as if he could see into the future at the impending result.
“It’s true, I was rather calm,” he added. “I see no reason to be nervous as there is no constructive use behind it. It all comes down to doing what you can and what you’ve prepared for. The clothing collaboration with JAXET helped a lot as I felt like I was in my own bubble during the ring walk.”
“I have always loved London and it’s a pleasure to visit,” he continued, in reference to ongoing speculation where the rematch in 2022 will take place. “As for the stadium – to be honest, it was exhilarating, I loved every bit of the feeling and would be happy to experience that again.”
The current heavyweight landscape is fluid. Tyson Fury’s recent trilogy win over Deontay Wilder has opened the door for a potential undisputed fight down the line, but Usyk is reluctant to be drawn on ifs, buts, maybes. He didn’t watch the Fury-Wilder fight and he has very little interest in Anthony Joshua’s search for an additional trainer.
“We stay in our lane,” he continued. “When it comes to the rematch, myself and the team will buildup a strategy and prepare the training program. The thing I can say is that I’ll be preparing as hard as I can – when the time is right.”
“As for now, I expect only a rematch with Joshua. But in general, Fury is one more excellent British fighter that I’d love to fight against. I don’t like to deliberate on the results, but I know that should it happen – it’s going to be another incredible fight.”
But for now, it’s back to home and a more wholesome life for Usyk – spending time with his wife Yekaterina and three children, Kyrylo, Mykhailo and Yelizaveta. There is no desire to take a busman’s holiday, as boxing takes a back seat. His family, after all, are his most important team.
“They were happy for me as they are always my support,” he added in relation to their reaction following last month’s bout. “Every step of the way. My wife is always there with a pep-talk before the fight, and she’s my biggest fan during.”
Does he see himself as a ‘great’ in the sport yet? “I honestly see myself as just a simple person. It’s not about the feeling or status for me,” he explained. But if Oleksandr isn’t willing to blow his own trumpet, then others will.
He concludes with a message to Anthony Joshua – indirectly, and of sorts. “I honestly don’t have anything to say to him. One of the principles of my preparation is to concentrate on myself – my preparation, spirit and belief. Nothing else matters on this path.”