Was 2018 The Year Of Ukrainian Boxing?
By Dan McConnell
As 2018 has drawn to a close and we have entered new territory in 2019, I wanted to review how far Ukrainian boxing has come from its successful amateur ranks to the professional spotlight.
Notable Ukrainian names in the boxing world who have come through the Olympic boxing route and have been successful in the professional careers include WBA and newly crowned WBO lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko, cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk who unified the entire division this past year and also newly crowned WBC light-heavyweight champion Olseksandr Gvozdyk.
Between these three champions they have won nine titles in just under 45 fights as professionals, which is truly remarkable for any one nation. The Ukrainian boxing ranks are certainly one to be feared. To put this into perspective at the London 2012 Olympics the Ukrainian nation won a total of 20 medals in which five where in the boxing category.
Ukraine qualified seven boxers in this Olympics and was by far their best performance at any Olympic games, after winning all but two medals in London. Two gold medals where won by lightweight boxer Vasyl Lomachenko and then heavyweight boxer Oleksandr Usyk.
Gvozdyk won Bronze in the light-heavyweight division in London 2012, he wasn’t happy with his performance and competed at the 2013 Summer Universiade games in Russia. He won the gold medal and then decided to move into the professional game a year later.
2012 seemed to be a spring-board year for these fighters to make the jump into the professional ranks in the boxing world. Loma making his pro debut in October 2013, Usyk in September 2013 and Gvozdyk in April of 2014. They have all certainly lived up to their hype and become a trio of fearsome fighters to be reckoned with.
The man described as ‘the matrix’ Lomachenko went on to beat Jorge Linares for his WBA lightweight title in May and end of last year beat Jose Pedraza for his WBO title, becoming a two-time champion who looks to unify the division against Mikey Garcia sometime in 2019.
The undefeated Usyk beat Mairis Briedis for his WBC cruiserweight title in January 2018, faced WBA and IBF champion Murat Gassiev in the Olympic stadium in Russia July 2018 earning victory via unanimous decision to unify the WBC, WBO, WBA and IBF Cruiserweight titles.
He then faced Liverpudlian Tony Bellew in Manchester. Usyk brutally knocked out Bellew in the eighth round to successfully defend his titles as unified champion. 2018 was a breakthrough year for Usyk who is now tipped to move to the heavyweight division in 2019 in what would earn him huge pay days and the possibility to face the likes of Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder for world heavyweight title glory or contenders Dillian Whyte or even Tyson Fury.
For Olesksandr Gvozdyk he had a career best year too. In March 2018 he beat Mehdi Amar in New York to lift the vacant WBO interim light-heavyweight title and went on to face top contender Adonis Stevenson for the title. He knocked out the highly-tipped Canadian in the eleventh round in December to secure his first professional title. Badu Jack could be next in line as number one contender or another top title fight against WBA champion Dmitry Bivol, WBA champion Arthur Beterbiev or WBO champion Eleider Alvarez.