WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko has decided to vacate his title belt in order to focus on politics in his home country of Ukraine. The 42-year-old Klitschko is a leader of the political opposition group in Ukraine and intends to run for president in 2015.
On Monday Klitschko vacated the belt and was then named “Champion Emeritus” by the WBC, which means that if he comes out of retirement he will immediately be given a title shot. But the 42-year-old has indicated that he will be retiring from the sport for good.
Ukrainian citizens have been protesting for weeks over current President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to avoid closer ties to the European Union and his move to push the country closer to Russia. Klitschko and his Udar party are pushing for a more genuine Western democracy.
The older of the two Klitschko brothers will retire with a record of 45-2 with 41 knockouts. His two losses were both caused by injury, not defeat in the ring. His first loss came against Chris Byrd in 2000, in a fight which he dominated. He was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards by a wide margin, but was forced to quit after the ninth round because of a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder.
His only other loss came against then-champion Lennox Lewis, who he dominated through six rounds in 2003. But a gruesome cut on Klitschko’s eyelid forced the fight to be stopped, denying him what would have been a massive victory. Since that 2003 fight he hasn’t lost or even been challenged in a bout.
Though he hadn’t fought in 15 months, he and his brother Wladimir are considered far and away the best heavyweights in the world right now.
Boxing will miss Vitali Klitschko, but his country needs him more than the sport does right now.