Ukrainian boxer Viktor Postol vows to find way home to wife, 5-year-old twins in war zone

Viktor Postol addresses crowd prior to super-lightweight boxing match against Gary Antuanne Russell on Saturday, Feb. 26. (Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Trapp, Showtime)
Lance Pugmire
USA TODAY Sports+

As his fights near, Viktor Postol typically takes comfort in words of encouragement from his wife, Olga. 

“She’s always supported me mentally through the hard times of making weight, and then saying all the right things I need to hear in getting me ready to fight,” said Postol, a former 140-pound world-champion boxer.

But now, Olga is sheltering with the couple’s 5-year-old twin sons, Timofey and Lukyam, in Brovary, Ukraine, less than 10 miles outside the nation’s Russian-targeted capital of Kyiv. 

The subject of Postol’s critical Saturday night bout in Las Vegas never came up when they spoke a day earlier.

RESPONSE: Boxing presses Putin, comes to Klitschkos' side amid Ukraine invasion

"Now it’s reversed. I’m just thinking of her," Postol told USA Today Sports+. "I have spoken to my family every day since I’ve been gone. They miss me so much. They cry every day."

Postol, 38, is scheduled to face rising 140-pounder Gary Antuanne Russell (14-0, 14 KOs) in a super-lightweight bout at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.

When Postol left home to train in Southern California, he cast Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats of an invasion to take out the democratic leadership of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as rhetoric. 

Now, tanks have rolled across the Ukrainian border and bombs have fallen, leaving more than 100 countrymen dead and more than 100,000 fleeing. Russian troops also crossed from Ukraine’s border with Belarus, 80 miles from the Postol home. 

Postol has opted to divert his attention from television news coverage so he can deal with his career duties at hand. 

Super-lightweight boxers Viktor Postol and Gary Antuanne Russell face off before their match on Saturday, Feb. 26. (Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Trapp, Showtime)

He was shattered hearing Olga sob heavily over the phone Friday evening. 

"Just wait, and pretty soon, I’ll be home and I’ll take care of all of you," Postol told his wife.  

He explained, "Obviously, I’m praying and hoping God will help and protect the Ukraine. We didn’t start this, and we don’t want war." 

VOICES: These are our fears as the world watches Russia's invasion of Ukraine

The implications of Postol’s bout are immense. A win lifts him back to title contention, but defeat could sway him toward retirement. All of that pales in comparison to what his wife, children and country are enduring. 

Postol isn’t even sure how he’ll get home. 

“I’m figuring that out right now,” he said. 

Since he can’t board a flight directly to the Ukraine, he’ll pursue traveling to Romania. The original plan was to get a car there and drive home, but news coverage has revealed the peril in attempting that journey. 

"I don’t know how I’ll drive there because we’ve heard so many bridges and roads have been bombed,” Postol said. "I’ve heard the trains are running. Even if they aren’t, I’ll walk. I will get back to the Ukraine!"

Postol’s relentlessness has defined his career. He won the World Boxing Council 140-pound belt in 2015 by stopping the intimidating heavy puncher, Lucas Matthysse. 

He then went the distance in defeat against two of the sport’s top-10 pound-for-pound fighters, unbeaten welterweight champion Terence Crawford and unbeaten and undisputed 140-pound champion Josh Taylor of Scotland. 

A narrow majority decision loss to then-two-belt-champion Jose Ramirez in August 2020 moved Postol (31-3) here: the expectation he will test but yield to the gifted 25-year-old southpaw from Capitol Heights, Maryland.

"Yes, I know if I lose, I’ll go home and who knows what will happen to me?" Postol said. "But don’t make me retire sooner than I want. I’m still a fighter. I still have that fire."

Postol will carry the Ukrainian flag to the ring Saturday night, doing his best to tend to his job but so eager to realize his dream of reuniting with his family as war rages.

Super-lightweight boxers Viktor Postol and Gary Antuanne Russell promote upcoming match on Saturday, Feb. 26. (Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Trapp, Showtime).

In Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko, the former heavyweight champion, has been joined by his ex-heavyweight-champion brother, Wladimir, in defense of their nation. Ukraine's three-belt heavyweight champion, Oleksandr Usyk, is also positioned to fight back the invaders.

Postol vows to reach them.

"I’m going to get there, to walk into my home and then know my family is safe because I will be there with them," Postol said. "We will not leave Ukraine. That is our country. We will stay there, and we will be safe."