Serhii Bohachuk, a promising welterweight, got an up-close look at the horrors of war
When Serhii Bohachuk, a promising welterweight prospect, left the United States where he is training for his boxing career, to return to his native Ukraine to renew his work visa, he was not he expected the twists and turns that his life would bring.
When he arrived in Ukraine, he arranged in March to visit the US embassy to renew his visa, so he could return to the US and resume his job. He is 20-1 with 20 fights and on November 3, he will fight Aaron Coley on the 360 Promotions card in Montebello, California, in a fight streamed on UFC Fight Pass.
But on February 24, the Russian army invaded Ukraine and the war began. The world’s attention turned to Ukraine, and the country’s focus became self-defense. While the largest number of people fled the country and a line of cars stretching almost 100 miles left the country for safe harbor in Poland, men between 18 and 60 years old had of age to stay in case they were needed for service in Poland. military as part of the defense of the country.
Although the US had initiated public warnings from its intelligence sources that Russia was planning to attack them, Bohachuk was completely surprised.
“I was angry and I was involved, but I couldn’t believe that this happened,” Bohachuk said. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought at this time and in this day and age, it was impossible. I was in shock. I was very upset and very angry. On the day it happened, I woke up and my mother said to me, ‘We are at war, they started to fight.’ I was surprised. I couldn’t believe it.”
Bohachuk lived in Vinnytsia, a city in west-central Ukraine about 170 miles from Kyiv. It is home to Gorky Park, a theme park that was the setting for the 1983 film of the same name starring William Hurt, Lee Marvin and Brian Dennehy.
Bohachuk found himself in the worst situation. His trip to Ukraine was largely a business trip to allow him to resume his boxing career, but he was thrust into the middle of a war.
Tom Loeffler of 360 Promotions, who guided Gennadiy Golovkin’s rise to prominence at middleweight, believes Bohachuk is a potential world champion. His only loss came in Puerto Rico on March 4, 2021, to Brandon Adams. Bohachuk was ahead on every card and was walking Adams down when Adams hit him with a left counter that hurt him. Adams finished him off late in the eighth with a left hook.
It was a fight he could have won, and he would have been bigger in his career, but a mistake cost him.
“It’s boxing,” Bohachuk said. “I got a good catch [punch]. I was doing my job and moving in and I made a mistake and he took advantage. It happens in boxing.”
However, Loeffler believes that Bohachuk has a lot of potential and that all of his fights have ended within the distance.
He is not a one-punch artist, like Golovkin or former heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, but he is a weight fighter who wears his opponent down and reaches them further forward in the fight.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, Bohachuk’s life, like that of all his compatriots, turned into chaos.
“I’m a sportsman, not a soldier,” Bohachuk said. “I wanted to fight for protection [the country], but everyone was saying to me, ‘Serhii, you are not a soldier. You are a sportsman. You must [box]. We will fight for you.”
His friends and family could not make that decision, however. But when Ukraine’s sports ministry released heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk so he could fight Anthony Joshua and then Vasiliy Lomachenko, it at least opened the possibility that Bohachuk would be released.
Bohachuk said Usyk’s win over Joshua in their rematch in Saudi Arabia made a big difference in the nation’s confidence.
“Usyk is such a great person,” Bohachuk said. “What he did was amazing. He fought for the title under those conditions and he did a fantastic job. He inspired everyone in this country. He showed us what a real hero is. “
The sports ministry eventually granted his release, but he had to go to Poland first, and then to the US embassy there to get his work visa to return to the US
It was a harrowing trip to Poland, and when he arrived, there were tens of thousands of refugees. People could only stay in hotels for three days so he had to check out of one hotel and into another. He also had a language barrier, as he does not speak Polish. He said that Poland was close enough to Ukraine that he could communicate, but that it was not ideal.
Two days after he left Vinnytsia, the Russians bombed it and caused untold damage in a completely civilian area. Twenty-six civilians died in the cruise missile strike, and more than 200 were injured. Cars were destroyed and a medical center was burned to the ground.
“It was horrible and unnecessary,” Bohachuk said. “People were just living their lives and there were no weapons [actions] going there Normal people only. Why do you do this?”
Bohachuk eventually got the visa and returned to the US in July. When he returns to the ring on November 3 in a card titled Callum Walsh, he is going to fight with renewed vigor.
“I know what this will mean [the Ukrainian] people,” he said. “So much is going on and sport is a way to [distraction] from the war.”