The world is on notice as Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun waging a new war on Ukraine.
With Russian troops barreling down on the capital city of Kyiv, its mayor, former boxing heavyweight world champion, Vitali Klitschko, and his brother Wladimir Klitschko are not going without a fight, literally.
The two champs recently announced that they had been planning on fighting for their country as the Russian escalation mounted with Wladimir enlisting in the Ukraine reserve army to prepare to fight for his homeland.
President @ZelenskyyUa confirms he and his team are in Kyiv.
Kyiv is currently in a defensive mode anticipating a move by the Russian forces. pic.twitter.com/3gD66fu1sv
— Sergei Perfiliev 🇺🇦 (@perfiliev) February 25, 2022
From The Ring To The Battlefield
“I don’t have another choice, I have to do that. I’ll be fighting,” said Vitali to ITV’s “Good Morning Britain.” “I believe in Ukraine, I believe in my country and I believe in my people.”
Vitali has been the mayor of Kyiv since 2014. He retired on a 13-fight win streak, and his only two losses in 47 fights were to Chris Byrd and Lennox Lewis. When he retired in 2012 at 41 years old, he was still the WBC heavyweight champion of the world.
However, his brother Wladimir fought longer until 2017 and has faced today’s greats like Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury. Although he did not retire a champion, he was the unified heavyweight titleholder for seven years.
Former heavyweight world champion boxers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko have said they plan to help defend Ukraine against Russia's invasion
Wladimir joined Ukraine's reserve army last month, and Vitali is the current mayor of the country's capital, Kyiv pic.twitter.com/lQdK9ehCgm
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 25, 2022
The Standard Bearers
Wladimir finished his professional boxing career with 64 wins in 69 fights, 53 by knockout. He competed in 29 world title fights.
The two brothers also incubated the early foundational career of Gennadiy “GGG” Golovkin under their K2 Promotions banner.
However, their win-at-all costs athletic attitude might be the emotional resolve Ukraine needs during this difficult time.On Wednesday, Russia launched its invasion following President Putin’s order of a full-scale military operation against its neighbor.
Praying for my guys @Vitaliy_Klychko and Wladimir @Klitschko and all the people of #Ukraine. Unbelievable that this is happening to their country after all the lessons we have learned in the past🙏🏼🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/FDemZWvm6n
— Tom Loeffler (@TomLoeffler1) February 24, 2022
A Country In Crisis
According to reports, an estimated 100,000 people have already fled the country amid the gunfire and explosions that staggered Ukraine’s cities.
However, many have already been reported killed.
“Shots and explosions are ringing out in some neighbourhoods. Saboteurs have already entered Kyiv,” said Vitali Klitschko to Reuters. “The enemy wants to put the capital on its knees and destroy us.”
The world is watching how reckless and deadly imperialism is, not just for #Ukraine but the whole world. Let history be a lesson to not be repeated.
— Klitschko (@Klitschko) February 24, 2022
A Complicated History
After Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian, was ousted in 2014 after protests against his rule raged for months, Russian President Putin has consistently accused Ukraine of being ruled by extremists.
However, the Russo-Ukrainian War originally centered on the status of Crimea and parts of the Donbas, internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.
“We are committed to the peaceful and diplomatic path; we will follow it and only it,” said current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said this week as Putin signaled an invasion of the easter separatist Ukrainian territories of Donbas and Luhansk before what became a much wider assault across much of the whole nation. “But we are on our own land, we are not afraid of anything and anybody, we owe nothing to no one, and we will give nothing to no one.”
Is there a more iconic photo right now from Ukraine? Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko defending his country 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/TqcmTdfdrU
— Michael Morgan (@mikewhoatv) February 25, 2022
From Boxers To Soldiers
However, the two boxers are now part of a legacy of boxers carrying the battle torch for their country.
Rocky Marciano, the only heavyweight professional boxer to have finished his career undefeated, was drafted into the Army to serve in World War II in 1943.
According to the Department of Defense, Marciano was stationed in Wales in the United Kingdom, where he helped ferry supplies across the English Channel to Normandy, France, after the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion.
Vitali Klitschko is a millionaire many times over. He could be living in a mansion in any city across the world. Instead he’s stayed in Ukraine and armed himself, fighting against a superpower. History will remember this courage.. 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/WGi8B9gjv0
— Boxing Kingdom (@BoxingKingdom14) February 24, 2022
The Brown Bomber
Additionally, in 1940, former heavyweight champion Joe Louis registered for the U.S. draft before the United States entered World War II. According to the National World War II Museum, his manager suggested donating his earnings from his upcoming match to defend his champion title to the U.S. Navy Relief Society.
Vitali Klitschko taking part in military drills in March 2021, preparing to defend Ukraine from Russia well in advance of Vladimir Putin’s current invasion… pic.twitter.com/XdiZ6G4Tu2
— Michael Benson (@MichaelBensonn) February 25, 2022
Louis agreed, although the U.S. Navy was the most segregated branch of the U.S. Armed Forces at that time. Blacks were relegated only to the kitchen as mess hall men and cooks.
However, Louis went to boot camp but never saw combat. Although the Klitschkos are preparing to fight, like Joe Louis, their most significant value to the war effort might be their popularity.
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