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Oleksandr Usyk On Defending Ukraine, Providing Shelter: “My Soul Belongs To The Lord, And My Body And My Honor Belong To My Country, My Family”

By: Sean Crose

“It’s my duty to defend my home, my family,” says IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titlist Oleksandr Usyk during a CNN interview. “It’s not that I want to fight somewhere on the front line. I’m defending my home. I’m defending my wife, my children, my close ones.” The Ukrainian citizen surprised many last year when he outboxed popular Englishman Anthony Joshua en route to winning Joshua’s title belts. A high profile rematch is in order, one which will literally earn Usyk millions of dollars and perhaps a whole lot of ring glory. Usyk has pushed that rematch aside, however, at least for the time being. Or rather, events have pushed it aside.

For last Thursday, Russian military forces began a full fledged attack on Ukraine. This was not a brief incursion. As the world is seeing in real time, the invasion rages on – and Usyk has returned home to join “the Kyiv Territorial Defense,” in order to do his part to help stem the tide of military aggression. “There are many bastards out there who are trying to profit from this,” says Usyk, “looters. We’re helping people, so what do you mean why? Because it’s my duty. I have to do this. I’m a man.”

During the interview, Usyk is asked by interviewer Don Riddell if he’s willing to kill someone. “If they want to take my life,” Usyk responds, “or the lives of my close ones, I will have to do it, but I don’t want that. I don’t want to shoot. I don’t want to kill anybody, but if they will be killing me, I will have no choice.” When asked if he was afraid to die, Usyk responded in what some might consider surprising fashion. “Maybe I’ll sound sentimental or something,” he says, “but my soul belongs to the Lord, and my body and my honor belong to my country, my family. So there is no fear. Absolutely no fear.”

Usyk then showed viewers his current living conditions. He and numerous others appear to be staying in a bunker or basement. People gather in rooms while a religious icon figures prominently. “Some people don’t have shelter,” says Usyk. “We have basements. When there is an air raid alarm, we hide there. There are a lot of us here. We all live at my home. Of course, It’s a lot of fun when there are a lot of us here. We’re having fun, but we’re forcing ourselves to have fun.”

Ultimately, the highly regarded two division titlist is, like millions of others, taken back by the entire experience. “There’s just bafflement,” he says. “How can this be in the 21st century?”

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