27-YEAR-OLD southpaw talent Oleksandr Usyk was an exceptionally decorated amateur, and the gifted cruiserweight from Russia (based in Ukraine and looked after by the Klitschko brother’s K2 Promotions group) aims to match his amateur achievements – that culminated with gold at the 2012 Olympics – at profesional level.
Currently 5-0 (5) and set to box again this Saturday (December 13) Usyk is seen by many good judges as a future star.
Here is what he had to say to Boxing News:
Q: Oleksandr, you won most everything as an amateur, including the gold at the 2012 Olympics. Who would you say gave you your hardest fight as an amateur?
Oleksandr Usyk: “Well, all those fights, they all took place within the last couple of years or so, so it’s hard to say. Maybe, if I was pushed to say, it was Artur Beterbiev of Russia who gave me my roughest fight. He is very aggressive and he does hit very hard.”
Q: And what would you say is your proudest moment as an amateur?
O.U: “Without a doubt, it is winning the gold medal at the Olympics in London in 2012. Even my wining the European and the world championships, neither could compare to that.”
Q: And how has your fighting style changed now that you are at pro level?
O.U: “First of all, the [pro] gloves are much stiffer and as a result I punch much harder now. I knock people down more now, and I knock people out. As a pro, I understand that every punch can finish a fight. I like this.”
Q: You are now 5-0 as a pro, has anyone tested you yet?
O.U: “Every step into the ring is a test – as I said, at cruiserweight or heavyweight, any single punch can end a fight. [Felipe] Romero, [Epifiano] Mendoza and [Cesar] Crenz and [Daniel] Brewer were all tough and experienced fighters and a couple of them had upset favoured fighters. But I dominated them all and I have KO’d all five of my pro opponents.”
Q: You have yet to go past the seventh round. Are you looking forward to going 12-rounds for the first time?
O.U: “I have no particular goal or wish to go 12 rounds any more than I hope to knock everybody out. I just try to win every round and if the KO comes, it comes. But I do know that if I do have the go the full 12-rounds, I will be able to do so without any problem because of my conditioning and because of my hard sparring.”
Q: You are tall at 6’3,” have you any intentions of ever going up to heavyweight?
O.U: “I am big enough and strong enough, so a jump up to heavyweight is possible in the future. But right now, I am a cruiserweight and my goals are to first win a world title at cruiserweight, then to unify the titles at cruiserweight. After that, if there are no good challengers at cruiserweight, or if I have any problems making the [cruiserweight] weight limit, I will definitely step up to heavyweight. I have fought as a heavyweight before, at amateur level.”
Q: You have boxed, at pro level, in Germany and Ukraine. When can UK fans or US fans hope to see you in action?
O.U: “I think all boxers should fight in the location where he stimulates the most interest from the fans. But at the same time, if you are a truly ambitious fighter, you need to travel and take the best challenges. I mean, if you want to challenge the world champion or champions, you must go wherever you have to go. I know that the US is the mecca of boxing, and I will definitely make my debut there sooner or later. My problem is, the cruiserweight division isn’t very popular in America and there are no big names for me to fight there. All the [cruiserweight] champions are European and two of them are based in Germany and the other two are Russian. But if I have any decent opposition in the U.K, I will fight them there, no problem.”
Q: Who do you think is the best cruiserweight in the world right now?
O.U: “I have to say that Marco Huck, Yoan Pablo Hernandez, Grigoriy Drozd and Denis Lebedev are the best right now, because they are all belt holders. But myself, I am one of the current promising fighters in the weight division.”
Q: When will you challenge for a world title?
O.U: “I think and hope, by the end of next year. I have a dream of breaking Evander Holyfield’s record of wining the world title after just twelve [pro] fights. Evander beat Dwight Qawi in his 12th fight and I aim to win the world title after eleven fights or less! I have great amateur experience, so it is no risk for me to go in against tough, upset-minded fighters such as Felipe Romero and Epifiano Mendoza, who I defeated in my early pro fights. We do not see the need to waste my time by matching me with soft opposition. ”
Q: And you have boxed three fights (with one more set for December 13) in 2014. How many times do you hope to box next year?
O.U: “The plan is for me to fight four times in 2015. I look forward to it.”