By: Sean Crose
Former WBC titlist turned Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko has claimed he’s going to fight to defend his Ukrainian homeland against the current Russian military invasion. “I don’t have a choice,” he said on Thursday. “I have to do that.” On Friday, it looked as if Klitschko was keeping his word as photographs emerged of the former fighter dressed in fatigues and manning a machine gun. With Kiev now reportedly under attack, the legendary boxer turned mayor turned soldier will certainly be a target for the forces of Russia’s President Wladimir Putin, the man behind the invasion of Ukraine.
Klitschko, a 50 year old father of three, became mayor of Kiev in 2014. Since retiring from boxing in 2013, he has earned a reputation for being as fearless in politics as he was in the ring. The same year as his retirement, for instance, Klitschko was assaulted at an outdoor protest, only to resume speaking to the crowd. Now, however, the man is very publicly facing the biggest challenge of his life, as well as Europe’s biggest direct military challenge since World War Two. As Kevin Iole of Yahoo puts it, Klitschko “may have signed his own death warrant.”
If that proves to be the case, however, there’s little evidence that the man will have any regrets. He’s served in the Ukrainian military before, after all. Plus Klitschko had a ring career that saw him face opponents like the great Lennox Lewis. Some individuals simply appear to be born tough, and Klitschko seems to be one of those people. The photographs circling the internet of him suited up and armed for combat alone might well have put a target on his back. And being targeted by a warlord like Putin isn’t the same as being targeted by a title contender. Those who have followed Klitschko, however, know he’s not the type to back down.
The same can be said for Klitschko’s younger brother, Wladimir. Like his older sibling, the younger Klitschko is an iconic former heavyweight titlist. He also has stepped up for military service himself. Like Vitali, Wladimir Klitschko simply doesn’t come across as one to avoid conflict. The actions of both men will unquestionably see them regarded as heros in their homeland, though most of their countrymen would probably not be keen to see the brothers as martyrs.
Although a military attack on Ukraine from Russia hasn’t come across as surprising, the sheer aggressiveness and size of Putin’s invasion has caught the world off guard. Most analysts who speak on the issue make it clear they believe there’s no way for Ukrainian forces to best the Russian military on the battlefield. The Ukrainian military is reportedly fighting well, however, something worth noting as Kiev now finds itself under direct assault. Should Kiev fall, Russia will have taken the Ukrainian capital, a city with a population of millions with an illustrious history, to boot. No doubt Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko are keeping that thought in mind as they take part personally in engaging the enemy.
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