As an amateur, Usyk won gold medals at the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics, both in the heavyweight division. He turned professional in 2013 and won the undisputed cruiserweight championship in his 15th professional fight in 2018. Three of his titles were won during the inaugural World Boxing Super Series, in which he won the Muhammad Ali Trophy, as well as The Ring magazine and lineal cruiserweight titles. For his achievements, Usyk was named the 2018 Fighter of the Year by Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The Ring, and the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Usyk was born in Simferopol, Crimean Oblast, Ukrainian SSR on 17 January 1987. Until age 15, he played association football and was trained at the SC Tavriya Simferopol specialized sports school of Olympic reserve. In 2002 Usyk switched to boxing. He is a graduate of Lviv State University of Physical Culture.
Usyk turned pro in late 2013 at the age of 26 and signed a promotional deal with the Klitschko brothers’ K2 Promotions, fighting in the cruiserweight division. On 9 November 2013 Usyk made his professional debut by defeating Mexican fighter Felipe Romero via a fifth-round knockout. The following month he stopped 38 year old Epifanio Mendoza in four rounds. In his third professional fight on 26 April 2014, Usyk made his debut in Germany on the undercard of Klitschko-Leapai at the Koenig Pilsener Arena, defeating Ben Nsafoah via third-round knockout.
Rise up the ranks
Usyk won his first title on 4 October 2014, after beating South African boxer Daniel Bruwer via seventh-round technical knockout for the interim WBO Inter-Continental cruiserweight title. Usyk defended the title two months later, stopping 35 year old Danie Venter in the ninth-round. Usyk was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards at the time of stoppage.
Usyk vs. Głowacki
In June 2016, it was announced that Usyk would challenge undefeated Polish boxer Krzysztof Głowacki for his WBO cruiserweight title on 17 September, at the Ergo Arena, Gdansk, Poland. It was reported that Usyk’s trainer James Ali Bashir wanted to recruit former world champion Antonio Tarver as a sparring partner. It was said that Tarver not only requested too much money, but also wanted to appear on the card as a co-featured main event. Głowacki weighed 199.3 pounds, with Usyk coming in slightly lighter at 198.75 pounds.
Usyk vs. Mchunu
Usyk announced he would be making his American debut on the Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Smith Jr. undercard on 17 December 2016. The fight would take place at the Forum in Inglewood, California. On 11 November K2 Promotions announced Usyk would be defending his WBO title against 28 year old South African boxer Thabiso Mchunu. Mchunu previously lost to Ilunga Makabu via eleventh-round stoppage, although being ahead on the scorecards at the time. The fight started out slow, causing the fans in attendance to boo with displeasure.
Usyk vs. Hunter
K2 Promotions announced that Usyk would be returning to regular HBO to defend his cruiserweight world title in April 2017. He was originally planned to appear on the undercard of the Golovkin-Jacobs HBO PPV in March at Madison Square Garden, however since Román González and Carlos Cuadras were scheduled to appear in separate fights and not fight each other, Usyk was pulled from the card.
World Boxing Super Series
On 1 July 2015, Usyk finally announced that he would join fellow cruiserweights Mairis Briedis, Murat Gassiev, Yuniel Dorticos, Marco Huck and Krzysztof Włodarczyk in the eight-man bracket style tournament, due to start in September 2017. He said, “I feel happy and inspired with the idea of such a tournament. I’ve been dreaming of putting together all the champs to see who is the strongest and becomes the undisputed king of the division. The draw was to take place on 8 July in Monte Carlo. The winner of the tournament would receive a grand money prize and the Muhammad Ali trophy.
Usyk vs. Huck
At the Draft Gala, Usyk, who had first pick, chose to fight former WBO champion Marco Huck. When asked why he chose Huck, Usyk said, Because of my fans. Huck, who was equally excited, replied that Usyk was his wish opponent. On 26 July it was announced that the fight would take place at the Max-Schmeling-Halle in Berlin on 9 September 2017. This would mark the second time Usyk would fight in Germany as a professional, having fought there in his third professional bout in April 2014. It would also mark the first fight of the tournament.
Usyk vs. Briedis
Usyk would next fight Mairis Briedis following the latter’s win over Perez via unanimous decision. In November 2017, it was reported the fight would take place on 27 January 2018 in Riga, Latvia, a week before Gassiev vs. Dorticos takes place. Arēna Rīga was confirmed as the location by Comosa’s Chief Boxing Officer Kalle Sauerland. Usyk came in at 199.5 pounds and Briedis weighed 199.1 pounds.
Usyk vs. Gassiev
After Usyk defeated Briedis, it was announced in the post-fight press conference that the final would take place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on 11 May 2018. However, once Murat Gassiev stopped Yuniel Dorticos, setting up the final, the secretary general of the Russian Boxing Federation, Umar Kremlev, stated that he would push forward in order to outbid Saudi Arabia and have the final of the tournament take place in Russia on the Day of Russian Boxing on 22 July.
Usyk vs. Bellew
After calling out Tony Bellew after winning the tournament, Bellew responded via social media that he would accept the fight, however stated the fight would need to take place in 2018 and for the undisputed cruiserweight championship. Bellew believed a fight at heavyweight would not be as appealing as he would not gain much with a win. Bellew also stated it would be his last fight as a professional.
Move to heavyweight
After defeating Bellew, Usyk declared his intention to move up to heavyweight. Carlos Takam was announced as his opponent, with the fight scheduled for 25 May. On 7 May, it was reported that Usyk had suffered a bicep injury. The bout was rescheduled for a date in September, to be featured on DAZN. On 22 August, following the Golovkin vs. Derevyanchenko press conference, promoter Eddie Hearn revealed in an interview that Carlos Takam is out of the fight and will not be taking the fight. Usyk also has the option to challenge the winner of the rematch between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua for the WBA.
Usyk vs. Chisora
On 11 March 2020 it was announced that Usyk would fight Dereck Chisora on 23 May 2020 at The O2 Arena in London. If successful, Usyk is expected to fight for the WBO heavyweight title, currently held by Anthony Joshua. As part of his preparation for the heavyweight bouts, he is sparring occasionally with Wladimir Klitschko. The fight has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Usyk is married to Kateryna and the couple have 3 children. They now live in Kyiv, Ukraine. On 28 April 2014, after the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, Usyk declared he would never exchange his Ukrainian citizenship for Russian citizenship and that he considered Crimea a part of Ukraine. In 2016, responding to a question if he can still enter Crimea, he stated that he can enter Crimea after each of his fights; that he does not like to talk politics due to the fact that people like to take words out of context, that in Russia he has many fans and that he does not divide “our peoples because we are Slavs.