Oleksandr Usyk invited Gary Neville to his camp for an exclusive interview where he opens up about the moment he found out war had started in Ukraine and discusses his fight against Tyson Fury.
The Unified World Heavyweight Champion talks candidly about the challenges he faced growing up, losing his Father and finding his purpose in boxing.
Oleksandr Usyk, speaking on The Overlap, in partnership with Sky Bet said: “It’s crazy what Russia is doing to my country”
“I’m not angry anymore with the war. Maybe in the first two months I was, and I questioned ‘why?’ It’s crazy what Russia are doing. I am worried for my family, my friends, my country people, but not for myself. Everyday I’m praying and I say, ‘thank you for the way I live, my family, my son, my daughter’. One year my family and I didn’t live together and that was a problem for me.”
Oleksandr Usyk: It was difficult being in the territorial defence of Kyiv
“I haven’t been fighting where our soldiers are fighting now. I was in the territorial defence of Kyiv, and it was difficult. I know a lot of military men as I served in the Border Guard Forces.
“When I went to the hospital to see my pals who were recovering from injuries sustained in the first months of the war, they told me that it was my duty to train and prepare for the fight and come back home with a victory.
“I talk to a lot of guys who are fighting in the war right now. I record words of support for them, and they give me gifts and record videos. Even though they are in the midst of a terrible battle, they still muck about. They send me funny videos of them laughing their heads off. They distract themselves in that way.
“The last video I received was from Bakhmut. A guy filmed a missile that fell about five metres from them. He is filming and saying, ‘what a blessing it missed us. We’ll move to another place now’. Later I received a video in the evening where they dug out a trench and built a fire to warm themselves up. They told me, ‘We’ve moved to a five-star hotel’.”
Usyk: I was the only person driving into Kyiv when the war started
“My daughter had a birthday on February 24th and then I went to London. I got to my room and read an SMS from my wife, saying a war had started. I wanted to go back home so I changed my ticket and flew to Poland. I called my friend to pick me up and we went through customs into Ukraine and to Kyiv.
“Maybe about 300 kilometres into Kyiv, there was a lot of traffic coming out. My car was the only one going into Kiev. The Polish security said, ‘hey Olek, where are you going?’ I said, ‘I’m going home’.
“I got home February 25th, and it was 6am, people were asleep and there was just silence. I went into my room and my wife asked, ‘are you back?’ I said ‘yes, I’m back’. As soon as I laid down, I fell asleep and maybe two or three hours later, there were bombs going off.
“41 people lived in my house for one month – my family, my wife’s family, my friends. I joined the Ukraine army, and my wife asked me where I’m going.”
Usyk: President Zelensky stands up for the Ukrainian people
“I know President Zelensky personally – I’ve spoken with him a number of times. He produced films and was involved in a lot of television projects. As I see it, a President is a manager – and he was very successful in that in his previous career. He has transferred his managerial skills into his current job – and he is doing a much better job than any other politician in Ukraine or any previous President.
“He is the only President who hasn’t betrayed his people and stayed with them – I even have goosebumps saying this! He stayed with his people, and they saw that and stood up against the enemy. Our children went to the same nursery and school – there was a bit of fighting at first – but it’s all good now, maybe the squabbling has helped them to become friends! Many people will say I’m sucking up to him – I don’t need to, because I don’t depend on the President or anyone else. I work for myself and earn enough money to take care of myself.”
Oleksandr Usyk: The rest of the world should be more resolute to the war in Ukraine
“They [rest of the world] should be more resolute. Ukraine needs military help with tanks, planes, and jets. We have people who aren’t afraid, we have generals, and soldiers.
“They [the West] are afraid. The British aren’t afraid, they have a similar way of thinking to us, they are brave guys.”
Oleksandr Usyk: If I have the opportunity, I must help my country
“It can be hard to carry on, but if I’m scared or think about it [war] all constantly, it will not change the situation. If I have the opportunity, I must help my country, the army and all the lads.
“If God gave me this opportunity to be someone famous who can speak out, I must speak about it.”
Oleksandr Usyk: I’m boxing for the whole of Ukraine
“I’m not boxing for the belt – I’m boxing for everyone defending our country right now and in memory of those warriors no longer with us – and for everyone who wants to be free and who stood up for their country against those who came to conquer us.”