Usyk of Ukraine Motivated by Memories of Boxing and Dead Friends

Ukrainian world heavyweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk told AFP he has two goals for this year. Tyson is in a unified title fight with Fury and rebuilding the house where his “best friend” was killed by Russian soldiers.

Usyk’s former teammate Oleksiy Junkivsky was shot in the hall of a building in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv.

Usyk partnered with charity United24 to raise money to restore a badly damaged five-story house to its former glory.

He contributed $205,000 for a total cost of $330,000.

In a Zoom interview, Usyk told AFP it was a coincidence that he chose to visit the building.

“I randomly chose this house,” the 36-year-old former cruiserweight world champion said through an interpreter.

“When we came to see the house and saw how destroyed it was, I was a little surprised.

“My best friend had a boxing gym in this house. He and I were on the national team and went to boxing tournaments together.

“Olexi Junkovsky was shot by a Russian soldier in this hall.”

When Russia invaded Ukraine last February, Usyk hoped to take up arms immediately.

However, he was dissuaded from doing so because his compatriots felt so in his role. sports A world-famous star, he was able to add another weapon to Ukraine’s military budget.

“The people in the Armed Forces have convinced me that I need to prepare and fight to help my country on the international stage, talk about it, and give Ukraine the opportunity to rebuild my country,” he said.

“You should die”

Usyk, whose family is in Kyiv, was particularly moved to visit a hospital where wounded soldiers were being treated.

He met with them last August in Saudi Arabia before a title rematch with British boxer Anthony Joshua, who was overthrown by Usyk in September 2021.

It was inspiring because some people told me: “Alex, you should go and prepare and come back triumphant.”

“These 10 to 15 people came to Saudi Arabia to support me.

“I brought these soldiers who have been fighting since day one to see the battle.

“There were some players without limbs, but when I met them the night before the game, I felt like part of the Ukrainian army was with me. and with me.”

Usyk went on to retain the title on a split point decision, but said he felt a heavy responsibility on his shoulders during the match.

“In the ninth round, I realized that if I fell now, the spirit of a fighter who defends the country would also fall,” he said.

“I didn’t box for myself, I boxed for everyone who defends my country.”

He said a unified title bout with British fighter Fury could take place “at the end of April”.

This is not Usyk’s first experience of war, as his father was twice wounded fighting for Soviet forces during the ten-year occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.)

“I saw the consequences of this post-war condition and what happened to him. He often had headaches and he had very high blood pressure,” Usyk said.

“He remembers having a nightmare at the end where he called out the names of his comrades who had been killed.”

Usyk’s father never shared his experience directly with his son, but his message was clear.

“He said the inhumane things that happen in war are terrible and God forbid things like you go to war or watch war,” Usyk said. Told.

As the war is about to enter its second year, Usyk is sending a message to his compatriots – and in complete denial about the Russians.

“My message to my indomitable people is that the yellow-blue heart is strength and victory,” he said.

“To my neighbors (Russians)…they are so ill that they cannot be reached.

“They write a lot that I’m bad, that I’m not polite, that I should die.

“Sick people need to be treated, so let them treat themselves there.”

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