It would not be a stretch to call the 6’3″ Oleksandr Usyk a YouTube sensation as much for the victory dance he performs in the ring–a traditional Ukranian Hopak dance–and equally for his thrilling fighting prowess.
Usyk (10-0, 9 KOs), won a gold medal for Ukraine as a Heavyweight in 2012 in London, will make his first appearance in the United States Saturday night as he takes on Thabiso Mchunu on the undercard of Bernard Hopkins’ final bout against Joe Smith, Jr. at the “Fabulous” Forum in Los Angeles, California on HBO.
The bout will also serve as the first title defense of the Cruiserweight world championship that Usyk won this past September when he traveled to Poland to dethrone previously unbeaten Krzysztof Glowacki.
Prior to the world title bout in Poland, Usyk fought four consecutive times at the Sport Palace in his native Kiev, Ukraine, drawing as many as 10,000 fans. Usyk’s manager Egis Klimas and promoter K2 Promotions believe the time is now to bring Usyk to the United States in hopes of building a new fan base for him to help lure bigger fights.
Usyk said this week he and his team planned to capture the Cruiserweight title as quickly as possible and defend it a few times before making the move to heavyweight.
By winning the Cruiserweight title in only his 10th professional bout, Usyk broke a record previously held by Evander Holyfield who won the title in his 12th bout. After knocking out his nine opponents, Usyk showed the world he can box when he outpointed Glowacki and won wide on all three scorecards in front of the Polish champion’s hometown crowd.
While Glowacki was meandering around the ring looking for one big punch, Usyk displayed great foot movement and a sharp jab to keep Glowacki off balance. Glowacki showed his frustration early on in the bout as he realized he is not on the same talent level as Usyk.
Usyk is close friends with fellow Ukrainian boxing prodigy Vasyl Lomachenko, who is also managed by Klimas. Three weeks ago, Lomachenko turned heads by easily disposing of Nicholas Walters and making him quit on his stool.
Lomachenko entered everyone’s top pound-for-pound list and Usyk hopes to be not too far behind and has already targeted IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua as a future foe once he makes the climb a few pounds north.
Joshua won the gold in the Super Heavyweight division at the same Olympic games in 2012 and will now take on Wladimir Klitschko next April.
Perhaps if the fight doesn’t go Klitschko’s way, Usyk will be tapped as the heir apparent who can exact some revenge.
Photos by Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos