“I Don’t Have Another Choice, I’ll Be Fighting” | Boxing’s Klitschko Brothers Prepare To Defend Ukraine

Image Credit: Twitter screen shot

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.

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.

The Curtain Falls on Wladimir Klitschko’s Decorated Career

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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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Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.