The hits keep on coming for Oleksandr Usyk.

A repeat win over England’s Anthony Joshua saw Ukraine’s Usyk successfully defend his WBA ‘Super’/IBF/WBO heavyweight titles this past August 21 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The win came eleven months after dethroning Joshua (24-3, 22KOs) with a competitive but clear unanimous decision last September 25 on the road at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London.

The rematch was delayed due to Usyk’s initial commitment with a national defense battalion at the start of the Russo-Ukraine war. His status as the father of three underage children granted exemption from Ukraine’s Martial Law, allowing Usyk to resume his career and eventually face and once again defeat Joshua. His in-ring accomplishments were honored by the WBO with the distinction of being named the sanctioning body’s Male Fighter of the Year.

“Your heart is big. I know you were fighting for all of your people,” Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcarcel, longtime and newly re-elected WBO president told Usyk and career-long manager Egis Klimas. “You are the Fighter of the Year and I hope you enjoy. When we made [Usyk] mandatory, other guys were complaining. We got litigation, but finally we were able to make you the mandatory. We followed the rules, and we were right because you deserved to be the mandatory.

“We are proud to have you here. We are proud of you, Egis, you have the best fighter in the world here.”

The honor came in the form of a framed oversized painting of Usyk, created by gifted artist Patrick Killian. Usyk was blown away by the presentation, though relieved upon learning the original was still safely wrapped in a tube.

“Oh, it’s good,” Usyk joked. “I didn’t know how to [transport] something this big.”

The first pro title claimed by Usyk (20-0, 13KOs) was the WBO cruiserweight crown, having dethroned then-unbeaten titlist Krzysztof Glowacki in September 2016 on the road in Gdansk, Poland. The feat launched a remarkable run that has seen Usyk become boxing’s ultimate road warrior, as he is a startling 7-0 in title fights taking place in his opponent’s home country. Wins over then-WBO titlist Glowacki (Poland), WBC titlist Mairis Briedis (Latvia) and WBA/IBF champ Murat Gassiev (Russia) all came on the road and versus unbeaten titleholders.

The same trend came at heavyweight. Usyk stopped American journeyman Chazz Witherspoon in the U.S. and defeated both Derek Chisora and Joshua in the U.K. before fighting Joshua in a rematch on neutral soil in Saudi Arabia though still on a show presented by Matchroom Boxing.  

Usyk had to push his way to the top of the heavyweight queue to get to Joshua the first time around. He was named mandatory based on his status as a ‘Super’ champion with the WBO, who bestows the honor based on longevity as a titleholder and/or a fighter’s standout achievements as amateur and pro. Usyk checked off every box in earning that right, which he used to become the top heavyweight contender for the WBO title.

The Ukrainian southpaw had to wait out a rematch between Joshua and Andy Ruiz, who dethroned the Brit to win the WBA/IBF/WBO titles in June 2019 before losing in their December 2019 rematch. Then came a legal battle that ended with Joshua being permitted to face IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev in December 2020, with the guarantee of Usyk getting a shot at the winner.

“I wanted to thank the WBO for very good work helping him (create the path) to become world champion,” acknowledged Klimas. “It was very hard work. Finally we did it.”

Usyk plans to return to the ring in the first half of 2023. At the top of his priority list is an undisputed heavyweight championship clash with lineal/WBC champ Tyson Fury (32-0-1, 23KOs).

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox