Boxer Usyk stripped of honors after ‘staining himself with Russophobia’
World heavyweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk has been stripped of honorary titles in his Crimean birthplace after being part of the Ukrainian ranks in the conflict with Russia.
Ring king Usyk, 35, was born in the Crimean city of Simferopol but has based himself in Kiev with his family in recent years.
He has flown the Ukrainian flag in boxing rings around the world, winning gold for his country at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
At the onset of Moscow’s military offensive in Ukraine, Usyk had been outside the country but returned to Kiev to join a Territorial Defense Battalion.
However, he has since left Ukraine again to prepare for his upcoming world title rematch with Britain’s Anthony Joshua, which is set for July at an as-yet unconfirmed location.
Reacting to Usyk’s stance in the conflict with Russia, the Crimean State Council declared that the boxer was among a host of figures to be formally relieved of honorary titles on Wednesday.
“These are [people] who arranged and welcomed the water and energy blockade of Crimea, who question the fairness and legitimacy of our return to Russia, who stained themselves with Russophobia. Such people are not worthy of a good memory,” said the chairman of the Crimean Parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, according to RIA.
Usyk specifically was stripped of his titles as an ‘Honored Worker of Physical Culture and Sports of Crimea’ and an insignia he had been bestowed with for “fidelity to duty.”
Others on the list included former Ukrainian Presidents Leonid Kravchuk and Leonid Kuchma.
Despite nailing his colors to the mast following the outbreak of the conflict with Russia, Usyk has been a divisive figure in Ukraine.
The fighter was accused of failing to speak out against the reunification of Crimea and Russia in 2014, and has instead described the peninsula as belonging to “God” when asked about the situation.
Usyk was even added to Ukraine’s infamous ‘Myrotvorets’ list of supposed ‘enemies of the state’ after he and fellow boxer Vasyl Lomachenko appeared in a religious video aligned with the Moscow patriarchate of the Orthodox faith.
Lomachenko, an Olympic and former world champion, was also criticized for emphasizing that he considers Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians as one and the same people.
But like Usyk, Lomachenko was also seen taking up arms for Ukraine when the conflict with Russia erupted.
“My country is Ukraine. I live here, I was born here, I grew up here. If I wanted to leave, I would have done that a long time ago,” Usyk, whose native tongue is Russian, has previously said in his defense.
“You won’t force me out because it’s my country. Don’t divide people. We are Ukrainian. I’m Ukrainian, it’s written in my passport.”
A former undisputed cruiserweight world champion, Usyk stunned the boxing world when he stepped up to heavyweight to defeat Joshua in their world title fight at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September.
Usyk comprehensively outboxed the Brit to win the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO titles, extending his undefeated professional record to 19-0.