Oleksandr Usyk’s obituary one day will likely list more than just his boxing achievements.
In a video posted on his Instagram account Saturday from his troubled homeland of Ukraine, the unified heavyweight champion of the world urged the citizens of Russia and its president Vladimir Putin to stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia encroached on Ukrainian territory early Thursday morning with military force and have been trying to gain a foothold in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, all day Saturday.
Usyk (19-0, 13 KO), who won the WBO, WBA, and IBF heavyweight titles by beating UK’s Anthony Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) last September at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, made an emotional appeal.
“Good morning,” Uysk said. “My name is Oleksandr Usyk. I want to appeal to the people of Russia. If you consider us brotherly people, do not let your military, your children go to our country. Stop attacking us!
“I also appeal to President Putin. Stop this war! Don’t give us ultimatums and declare your conditions, just sit down at the negotiating table. We need to talk and stop everything. Our children, our mothers, our grandmothers and ordinary people are hiding in basements. We are on our own land, we act as we have to. We are protecting ourselves. Stop it. Stop this war!”
The minister of healthcare of Ukraine said early Saturday morning that 198 Ukrainians have been killed, including three children.
Usyk’s entreaty follows his return to Ukraine after a stint in England dealing with his upcoming rematch against Joshua. Rumors had abounded that Usyk had fled his country, but he quickly dispelled those notions in an earlier Instagram post.
“Dear Ukraine and dear Ukrainians, some wrote about me running away. not true, I had a work trip and now I’m back. I’m home [trans. by Daily Star],” Usyk said.
Usyk joins fellow compatriots and boxing icons Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko as some of the most notable Ukrainian sporting figures to make a stand against the Russians on their home soil.
Vitali, the elder brother of Wladimir and mayor of Kyiv, said he would be willing to take up arms to protect his country. While hordes of Ukrainian have been seen fleeing their country, thousands of civilians have enlisted in the war effort.
The Ukraine State Border Guard Service announced martial law yesterday barring all males ages 18 to 60 from leaving the country.