Oleksandr Usyk: Heavyweight Champion speaking exclusively to CNN after joining the Ukrainian Defense Battalion
Between them, 35-year-old Usyk and 34-year-old Lomachenko have won three Olympic gold medals and have since established themselves among the world’s elite boxers.
“If they want to commit suicide with my life or the lives of my loved ones, I will have to,” he said. “But I don’t want to. I don’t want to shoot, and I don’t want to kill anyone, but if they’re going to kill me, I have no other choice.”
Usyk’s manager, Egis Klimas, helped coordinate and translate the interview for Usyk, who does not speak English. Despite the terrifying situation many Ukrainians now find themselves in, Usyk says he is not afraid.
He explained, “Maybe, it would sound sentimental, but my soul belongs to the Lord and my body and my honor belongs to my country, to my family. So there is no fear, absolutely no fear. There is just confusion–how can this be in the 21st century?”
He is not in Ukraine for boxing at the moment, but the noble art is still useful at the moment. He said, “It has helped me to be calm and prepared mentally, and helps me help others who are experiencing panic and stress.”
The two men were out of the country when Russia invaded; Usik was in London, to film an upcoming video game sequence.
He intended to return home only hours after hostilities began, but with the airports closed, he instead traveled to Warsaw in Poland and drove nearly 500 miles home and across the border to Kyiv.
Lomachenko was visiting a monastery in Greece and returned home the next day. Instead of traveling directly to his hometown of Odessa, he flew to Bucharest in Romania, then drove for nine hours to the port and took a ferry to Ukraine.
“The bombing is crazy”
Lomachenko was scheduled to speak to CNN at the same time as Usyk, but he did not respond to calls from his manager at the time. Early Wednesday morning local time, Klimas confirmed to CNN that Lomachenko was safe and sound.
He and Osik remain close: they are godparents to each other’s children and celebrate family birthdays together. Six days into the war, Usyk knows there is no longer a safe place in Ukraine.
“The bombing around us is crazy,” Usik said. “They just bombed the city of Mariupol, and one of my friends was hit by a missile on the roof of his house. [The Russians] They don’t play.”
“The Russian people do not know exactly what is happening here. They do not see what is happening. They are the victims of their president [Vladimir Putin]. “
Usyk just became the IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO World Heavyweight Champion. In September, Anthony defeated Joshua in London in a spectacular boxing show to earn the belts. His manager says talks about the rematch this summer are at an advanced stage.
Lomachenko was a former lightweight world champion in three different weight classes and was planning to battle George Camposos in Australia in June.
But it is understood that boxing is the last thing on their mind.
“I don’t really know when I’m going to be back in the ring,” said Usic, who looked exhausted and emotional in his CNN interview. “My country and my honor are more important to me than the championship belt.”
Usyk has three children, and during the interview, the voices of young people could be heard playing behind him in the basement.
He says family, friends and neighbors have been sheltering together. “When there’s an air raid alert, we hide. Of course, it’s fun when there are a lot of us here — we’re having fun. But we force ourselves to have fun.” They try to keep the children’s mood light.
But in a separate conversation with CNN, Director Usyk Klimas emphasized the seriousness of the situation: “They are in great danger. When the bullets start flying, the bullet doesn’t care if you’re the world champion. The bullet goes through.”