The first boxer from Ukraine to win a piece of the heavyweight crown was on hand to watch the latest from his country to accomplish the feat.
Hall of Fame former three-time heavyweight titlist Vitali Klitschko enjoyed a ringside view at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London as his countryman, Oleksandr Usyk wrested the WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO titles from Anthony Joshua. Usyk (19-0, 13KOs) offered a boxing masterclass in prevailing by scores of 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113 to become just the third heavyweight from Ukraine to win a major title in the division.
“It was an excellent fight. Very clever [performance],” the elder Klitschko stated in an on-air post-fight interview following the Sky Sports Box Office main event. “I’m very happy. Oleksandr did a perfect job.”
Usyk was fighting for just the third time as a heavyweight, having previously served as the undisputed cruiserweight champion where he claimed all of the major belts from unbeaten reigning titlists while fighting in their home country. Joshua (24-2, 22KOs) had just one loss heading in, though certainly enjoyed regional advantage as he was the clear crowd favorite among an estimated 68,000 fans in attendance. Raucous cheers turned to deafening silence as Usyk piled up rounds early and closed strong in the battle of 2012 Olympic Gold medalists and elite pro talents.
With the win, Usyk joined Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko as the lone boxers from Ukraine to win at least one heavyweight title.
Vitali Klitschko briefly held the WBO belt before losing to Chris Byrd via injury stoppage in 2000 and enjoyed two separate WBC title reigns, both of which ended in retirement. The latter of the two exits from the sport came in 2013, months after the final fight of his career at which point he continued to establish himself as a political leader. Klitschko is currently in his second term as the mayor of Kiev, where he has fought against corruption, has lobbied for political transparency and judicial reform.
Wladimir Klitschko held the WBO belt for nearly three years before suffering a knockout loss to Corrie Sanders in 2003. He resurfaced on the title stage in 2006, ruling the division for more than nine years and collecting the WBA/IBF/WBO titles and earning lineal championship status before falling to Tyson Fury in November 2015. The final fight of his career ended in defeat, trading knockdowns with Joshua before suffering an eleventh-round knockout loss in their April 2017 thriller.
For the first time in nearly six years, Ukraine can once again lay claim to a heavyweight champion.
“Everybody is happy,” Klitschko stated on behalf of his nation. “[Usyk is] second [in Ukraine] after Wladimir Klitschko to [become unified heavyweight champion].”