Ukraine politics cost me millions in sponsorship, reveals boxing icon Usyk
World heavyweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk says he has lost out on lucrative sponsorship deals in Ukraine because of political issues, with the star accused of not showing a more critical stance towards Russia.
Usyk stunned the boxing world when he comprehensively outpointed Anthony Joshua in their London showdown in September to win the Brit’s WBA, WBF, IBF and IBO world titles.
A former undisputed cruiserweight champion, Usyk also won gold for Ukraine at the London 2012 Olympics.
But despite being one of his nation’s greatest sporting exports and flying the Ukrainian flag in boxing rings around the world, Usyk is far from universally adored in his homeland.
Much of that stems from accusations that the Crimean-born star has declined to condemn Russia after the peninsula overwhelming voted to become part of the country in a 2014 referendum.
Usyk has replied that Crimea is ‘god’s’ when pressed on the issue in recent years, and still has family there even though he is based in Kiev.
Likewise, the undefeated boxer has been criticized for his religious views as he follows a branch of the Orthodox faith which is connected with the Moscow Patriarchate.
Along with fellow Ukrainian boxing star Vasiliy Lomachenko, Usyk was even added to an infamous list of ‘enemies of the state’ in Ukraine after appearing in a religious film in which the pair spoke about the importance of their beliefs.
Usyk has now revealed that he has lost out on lucrative sponsorship deals in Ukraine because of politics.
“Not in Ukraine,” Usyk replied when he was asked on a YouTube show hosted by Maria Efrosinina if he had major deals in Ukraine.
“The situation is such that with the hate, with these divisions and misunderstandings, a lot of multi-million contracts have gone. They were just rejected.
“For example, [they say]: ‘You spoke politically there’. I say, ‘Where, show me’. They say, ‘Well, they’re talking about you’. I say: ‘Well, they say that or I say that?’ They say, ‘Well, our company’s position is like this.’
“They would like to, but then they backtrack. I’ve lost quite a lot of money because of my position. I don’t regret it. Money is the easiest resource that can be replenished.”
The 35-year-old’s profile seems only set to get even bigger around the world, as reports claim that he could next be in line for a blockbuster heavyweight title unification fight with WBC world champion Tyson Fury.
Instead of a rematch with Usyk, Joshua is reportedly considering accepting £15 million ($20.25 million) in ‘step aside’ money to allow the Ukrainian to meet Fury, and then fight the winner himself later in 2022.