On the morning of February 24, 2022, a quick trip to Ukraine to renew his work visa suddenly became something else for Serhii Bohachuk, as the 154-pound up and comer got woken up by his mother in their home in Vinnytsia.
“My mother tells me, ‘Wake up, they start war,’” Bohachuk recalled. “I thought, ‘Hey, come on, is this a joke? This is impossible. Ten minutes later, I go to the internet, and I was very angry. I couldn't believe it - is this real or not? It was very upsetting for me.”
Russian troops had invaded Ukraine and a war was now underway. The 27-year-old Bohachuk’s head swirled with every possible emotion as he weighed his options.
“I'm thinking I'm going to the army, and I can't continue boxing,” he said. “I wanted to serve my country. So a couple times I'm thinking, maybe no more boxing because Ukraine is in a very bad situation. Very, very, very bad. But my friends and my family, they tell me you're not a soldier, you're a boxer. You need to go to the ring. You don't need to go to the war. You can help your country when you win fights, when you show the Ukrainian flag around the world and when you train at the gym. You can help your country in the ring more. Your war is in the ring, they told me.”
Bohachuk was still conflicted, especially when his brother went off to fight with the Ukrainian Army. But it was his brother who advised him that going back to the United States, where he’s lived since 2017, was where he needed to be to resume his career. It was an emotional talk, but he listened.
“I had two choices, and I didn't know what I needed to do - to go to war or go to boxing,” he said. “My brother told me I need to go to boxing. He said, ‘This is your job, and you need to work at your job. You're not a soldier, you're a boxer.’”
“Now my brother's gone to war, and I don't know where he is now,” he said. “This is an army secret and he can't tell me. I'm worried for him, and I don't know what I can change.”
In July, after months of trying to get out of Ukraine, then making it to Poland, and then back to Los Angeles, Bohachuk is getting the chance to fight again, and life is as normal as it can be with his family still in the middle of a warzone. On Thursday, he will step between the ropes for the first time since September of 2021 to face Aaron Coley in a show airing on UFC Fight Pass from the Quiet Cannon Country Club in Montebello, California.
The eternally positive Bohachuk, who is 2-0 with two knockouts since the lone loss of his 21-fight career against Brandon Adams in March of 2021, is understandably pleased to be back.
“Right now, I feel happy, I feel hungry,” he said. “I want to fight. I have one year with no fight, and this upset me; this is not good for me. I want boxing, I want training, I want good sparring. I had a long time without serious boxing, and this is boring for me. I want to fight. But now I'm very happy because I'm back, I have a fight, and I have a good opponent.”
The 16-4-1 Coley is a good test for Bohachuk, and with all four of his losses coming by decision, three by split decision, he has the goods to play spoiler, especially if Bohachuk’s head is in Vinnytsia and not in Montebello. “El Flaco” says focus will not be an issue.
“I'm in a good situation for the fight,” Bohachuk said. “I'm in good condition and my concentration is good. I have a lot of practice in boxing and, for me, boxing is life. I've been boxing maybe 15 or 16 years. This is my job. Now, my concentration is 90 percent for boxing and 10 percent for Ukraine and the war. I need to go into the fight, win the fight, and after that I'll be thinking about Ukraine and my family.”
So what would a win mean for those fighting back home?
“I win, this is good support for the people, support for the army,” he said. “(Oleksandr) Usyk won his fight (over Anthony Joshua) and it was very good support for the army and the people. After his fight, everybody was motivated to win. We're winners.”