Cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk rides former Soviet wave to the Forum on Dec. 17

Following the path paved by Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev and Vasyl Lomachenko, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk is coming to America, bringing a powerful, exciting fighting style that requires little translation.

“One of my big goals is to learn English,” Usyk, 29, said in comments translated by his manager, Egis Kilmas, on Wednesday at a luncheon in Los Angeles. “My mother used to say, ‘You need to learn English.’ I’d say, ‘Why do I need English?’ Now, I’d like to say, ‘Mom, I’m very sorry. You’re completely right.’”

The 2012 Olympic gold medalist won the cruiserweight world title Sept. 17 when he defeated Krzysztof Glowacki in Poland by unanimous decision. He broke Evander Holyfield’s record by requiring the fewest pro fights before earning the World Boxing Organization belt. 

Now 10-0 with nine knockouts, Usyk returns to action Dec. 17 at the Forum when he meets South Africa’s Thabiso Mchunu (17-2, 11 KOs) in the HBO-televised undercard bout to Bernard Hopkins’ farewell fight against Joe Smith Jr.

“This is the reason I came here,” Usyk said of his Eastern European predecessors’ success. “Since I was a little kid, I’ve dreamed of coming to the U.S. and boxing on shows like this.”

Usyk said he watched fighters like Hopkins, Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. growing up.

Klimas’ fighters already included super-featherweight champion Lomachenko and former light-heavyweight champion Kovalev when he landed Usyk earlier this year, saying, “If I could think of something negative [about Usyk], I wouldn’t be sitting here. … He’s very good. I’m very anxious for Dec. 17.”

The 6-foot-3 Usyk’s will likely move to heavyweight.

Like the unbeaten three-belt middleweight champion Golovkin of Kazakhstan, Usyk said, “As soon as I get all the cruiserweight titles, that same minute I’ll be gone to the heavyweight division.”

Usyk said he’s open to 2017 bouts against the winner of Saturday’s Denis Lebedev-Murat Gassiev International Boxing Federation title fight in Moscow and England’s world champion Tony Bellew.

“Out of respect, I don’t want to fight [HBO analyst] Roy Jones [who also fights at cruiserweight],” he said. “I know I can beat him. Badly.”

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
60°