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Ukraine 2012: The greatest Olympic boxing team of all-time?


David Benavidez steps up to the light heavyweight division this weekend, where he faces former champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk in an intriguing clash.

The WBC’s interim title at 175 lbs is on the line, a belt Gvozdyk won in 2018 before losing to Artur Beterbiev the following year.

“I feel really good,” Benavidez told The Sporting News at the start of fight week. “I’ve been at 168 for the last 10 years – my whole career – and this is probably the weight class we should have been fighting at all along. I feel comfortable, I feel really fast, I feel really strong. My endurance is lasting longer, too.”

WATCH: David Benavidez vs. Oleksandr Gvozdyk on Prime Video

Benavidez has the winner of Beterbiev’s clash with Dmitry Bivol in his sights but Gvozdyk should be anything but a pushover. The 37-year-old was one of five male Ukrainian boxing medalists at the London 2012 Olympic Games, forming part of arguably the finest squad the Games has ever seen.

Here, we look at what Ukraine’s esteemed class of 2012 — including two of the finest fighters of the 21st century — have gone on to achieve in the paid ranks.

After sealing lightweight gold in London to go with the featherweight title he claimed at Beijing 2008, Lomachenko concluded a scarcely believable amateur record of 396-1 by blazing a trail through the AIBA World Series of Boxing.

The unfamiliar sensation of not having his hand raised returned in Lomachenko’s second professional bout. Incredibly, it was a world title bid where he was rough-housed to a split decision loss against Orlando Salido — the only loss suffered by any of Ukraine’s 2012 medallists.

Not that it prompted a backwards step. Lomachenko saw off Gary Russell Jr. next time out to win the vacant WBO featherweight crown. That was the first of his world titles across three weight divisions.

Lomachenko dominated fellow amateur standout Guillermo Rigondeaux in December 2017 before stepping up to lightweight and dethroning the sublime Jorge Linares to win the WBA and Ring titles. A unification with WBO champ Jose Pedraza followed before back-to-back Brit-bashings of Anthony Crolla and Luke Campbell.

Teofimo Lopez stunned Loma by ending his 13-fight winning streak with a unanimous decision triumph in October 2020. Three rebuilding victories paved the way to a narrow and disputed loss to Devin Haney for the undisputed 135 lbs title but a one-sided beat down of George Kambosos means the  36-year-old Lomachenko has the IBF strap around his waist. Superfights with the likes of Gervonta Davis and Shakur Stevenson would make for an audacious final flourish.

A London 2012 gold medalist at heavyweight and 335-15 as an amateur, Usyk’s professional career was another to begin in fast forward. He outpointed the previously undefeated Krzysztof Glowacki in his 10th bout to win the WBO cruiserweight title and later handed Mairis Briedis his first loss to add the WBC crown. Murat Gassiev’s “0” was also taken by the masterful southpaw in a one-sided World Boxing Super Series final that unified the four major titles at 200 pounds.

Usyk underlined his status as cruiserweight king by comprehensively stopping Tony Bellew in November 2018, completing a phenomenal body of work at 200 lbs. However, it is his history-making exploits at heavyweight that have minted his status as an all-time great.

After acclimatising to life among the big men with wins over Chazz Witherspoon and Derek Chisora, Usyk dethroned Anthony Joshua with a masterful performance at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September 2021 to become unified heavyweight champion.

He prevailed once again in an entertaining return against Joshua in Jeddah a year later, commencing a frustrating wait for an undisputed showdown with Tyson Fury. In the interim, he stopped Daniel Dubois, a victory that has aged well given how impressively the big-punching Brit has responded to that setback.

Finally, Usyk’s date with Fury and destiny arrived on May 18, 2024. A close fight over the first two-thirds of the contest turned decisively Usyk’s way in round nine when he hurt Fury, almost stopped him and scored a knockdown. The split-decision verdict on the scorecards was the least an incredible fighting machine deserved.

Lomachenko and Usyk were in Quebec cheering on their friend as he became a world champion at a relative snail’s pace. Gvozdyk’s 16th bout brought a brutal 11th-round knockout of long-reigning WBC light-heavyweight king Adonis Stevenson — a triumph soon cloaked in sadness as the veteran Canadian, who has since made remarkable progress in his long-term recovery, required emergency brain surgery.

Gvozdyk made it 14 KOs in 17 outings when he stopped Doudou Ngumbu in his first defence before Artur Beterbiev brought his reign to a shuddering and frightening halt. The champ was up on two of the three scorecards when he was dropped three times and stopped in round 10 by the Russian wrecking ball.

That appeared to be that as Gvozdyk spent more than three years out of the ring. He came back against journeyman Josue Obando in February 2023 and wins over Ricards Bolotniks and Isaac Rodrigues have teed up his shot at Benavidez and an opportunity to rip up some best-laid plans.

MORE: Oleksandr Gvozdyk ready for ‘tough war’ with David Benavidez

Berinchyk overcame future Manny Pacquiao conqueror Jeff Horn at London 2012 before being forced to settle for light welterweight silver against Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias. He turned over later than Lomachenko, Usyk and Gvozdyk, debuting as a pro in 2015.

Basing himself in his homeland, Berinchyk patiently compiled a record against opposition not as notable as his now viral ring walks, with a turn as Super Mario before stopping Rosekie Cristobal to retain the WBO international title a particular highlight. 

Berinchyk held that lightly-regarded strap for more than four years but it eventually served a purpose. Hours after Usyk’s moment of triumph against Fury, he won a split-decision verdict against Emanuel Navarrete to claim the WBO’s vacant full title and become the fourth member of the team to win world honours in the professional prize ring.

The oldest of the quintet, Shelestyuk’s professional career failed to catch fire amid injury and managerial issues. Winner of bronze in London after being edged out by home favourite Fred Evans in the semifinals, the 38-year-old was last in action when he boxed to a split-decision draw against Gabriel Maestre in March 2022.

It is the only blemish on a 19-0-1 (11 KOs) record and despite his advancing years, Shelestyuk’s social media activity suggests he is far from done with the sport. The clock is ticking loudly on whether he can become the fifth of Ukraine’s five London 2012 medalists to claim gold as a professional.

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