There are few boxers bigger than Vitali Klitschko. But there is something bigger for Vitali Klitschko than boxing.
The six-foot-seven Ukrainian heavyweight has retired from the ring to focus on his homeland.
“At the moment, I cannot officially confirm that my career is finished,” he explained upon shifting from WBC heavyweight champion to champion emeritus. “Almost ten years ago, I had a four-year break and then I came back and regained the title. WBC President Jose Sulaiman has given me the opportunity to theoretical[ly] do the same thing again.”
Since the Ukrainian government spurned a free-trade pact with the European Union, moving closer to its former masters in Moscow, unrest has gripped Kiev. Klitschko has been a dominant figure in the anti-government protests that began in November. The former heavyweight champion and doctor of sports science heads the opposition Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform party (Punch), and figures to be its presidential candidate in the upcoming elections.
But the government has sought to discredit its most popular critic. After thugs recently beat up a reporter who had exposed a government minister’s extravagant living, the government strangely linked their famous anti-government critic to the criminals carrying out the attack. A dumbfounded Klitschko reacted, “Instead of conducting an objective investigation and finding who really ordered and carried out the beating of Tetyana Chornovil, the ministry of [Vitaliy] Zakharchenko turns to provocation and effectively tries to conceal the criminals.”
Klitschko leaves the ring boasting a 45-2 record with 41 knockouts. His two losses stem from in-ring injuries: a deep gash that cut short a megafight against Lennox Lewis and a torn rotator cuff against Chris Byrd resulting in the big man quitting on the stool. He held leads on the cards in both contests. He holds notable wins over Samuel Peter, Corrie Sanders, and Chris Arreola.
Unlike Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, or Mike Tyson, Vitali Klitschko leaves the sport without fighting the other great heavyweight of his era: Wladimir Klitschko. Ring magazine recognizes Klitschko’s younger brother as the heavyweight champion of the world.