Ukrainian star Usyk expected to visit Crimean gym despite risk of backlash against newly-crowned world heavyweight king
The first trainer of Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk has said he expects the world heavyweight champion to return to his Crimean roots and visit a local gym to serve as an inspiration for the youngsters there.
Usyk stunned the world in London on Saturday night as he comprehensively outboxed home favorite Anthony Joshua to become the new WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO world heavyweight champion.
The Ukrainian, 34, became just the third man in history to win world titles at cruiserweight and then heavyweight, having earlier been the undisputed ruler of the 200 lbs ranks.
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Usyk has since returned home to Kiev, but there are hopes that the Simferopol-born fighter will head back to Crimea in the near future to see aspiring young sports stars in the region.
“We expect that he’ll come. Within three weeks, not earlier, he’ll come to the gym and visit, I hope,” the star’s first boxing trainer, Sergey Lapin, told TASS.
“He still has his sister and mother-in-law [in Crimea], there is someone to come to visit,” Lapin added.
While Usyk proudly flies the flag for Ukraine in boxing rings around the world, the Olympic gold medalist has not always been showered with full adulation in return.
In particular, some have claimed Usyk has not done enough to bang the anti-Russian drum regarding the return of Crimea to Russia in a landslide referendum in 2014.
Usyk has consistently been asked whether he considers Crimea to be Ukrainian or Russian, but on different occasions has said it is “God’s” or simply replying “Crimea is Crimea”.
The boxer has likewise angered some in Ukraine by appearing in religious videos for a branch of the Orthodox church linked to the Moscow Patriarchate.
Lapin, however, hopes that Usyk will still visit the gym where around 160 young boxers train, and where his picture adorns the walls.
“While the guys are at such an age that they are on their way to becoming fully-formed, everything is ahead… We will make champions, and Sasha will come, by personal example he will inspire the guys to exploits,” said Lapin.
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Usyk himself suggested after his victory over Joshua that he would take his titles to Crimea to celebrate.
“Of course [I will go to Crimea],” said Usyk, who continues to use Russian as his first language.
“I want to see my coach, my sister.
“To go to my beloved gym, to say thank you to the coach for bringing me to a high level.
“He taught me how to box, defend, think. He made a boy out of a man.”
Usyk’s unanimous decision victory over Joshua improved his unblemished professional record to 19 wins from 19 fights.
Joshua is set to activate the rematch clause in his contract to face the Ukrainian again next year, although many believe the result will be little different from Usyk’s masterclass in London.
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