With fame and philanthropy, Olympic gold medal-winning boxer Wladimir Klitschko joins the fight in Ukraine

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Boxer Wladimir Klitschko joined the Kyiv Territorial Defense Brigade, essentially a military reserve unit made up largely of civilians supporting the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

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Just a year ago, Wladimir Klitschko was internationally known as a very different professional fighter. The Ukrainian Ph.D., former Olympic gold medalist and lineal world heavyweight champion was a retired sports legend with a record of 64-5 with 53 knockouts. He lived the life of a famous philanthropist and was a hero in his homeland.

Today, as Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation continues its invasion of Klitschko’s homeland, the boxer has put aside his old life and joined in the effort to defend Ukraine. He now fights alongside his brother, Vitali, a longtime mayor of Kyiv and a former boxing champion in his own right.

Immediately after the initial stages of the invasion, Klitschko joined the Kyiv Territorial Defense Brigade, essentially a military reserve unit made up largely of civilians supporting the Ukrainian Armed Forces. He now remains in the area, assisting his brother and other Kyiv leaders in both military defense and resource acquisition.

Although Putin’s initial attempt to capture Kyiv failed and Russian forces later focused their attacks on other parts of the country, Klitschko remained committed to the fight on the ground and as a celebrity spokesman in the world. call for international humanitarian and financial support.

In happier times, Klitschko was a veteran participant in the St. Moritz Celebrity Golf Cup, a series of charity events supporting the Ryder Cup European Development Trust. While the realities of war prevented him from participating in person in 2022, Cup organizers honored Klitschko with a Lifetime Achievement Award presented remotely for his philanthropic work before the conflict and his dedication to defending his country. .

Speaking by videoconference from Kyiv to St. Moritz and the event’s headquarters at the elite Badrutt’s Palace hotel, Klitschko explored what the conflict reveals about his people and how philanthropy through the Klitschko Foundation and around the world is essential to preserve Ukrainian freedom.

“This lifetime achievement award is not for me,” Klitschko says. “I couldn’t accept it alone, on my behalf. I could only accept it on behalf of all Ukrainians. Without the will and courage of Ukrainian women and men, we would not be here today.

Prior to February 2022, the Klitschko Foundation focused on children’s education and health. Although Klitschko says he hopes to one day bring the foundation back to those goals, the organization has redirected its resources to wartime humanitarian aid. Klitschko’s team is now working with other philanthropic groups and individuals around the world to alleviate the ongoing suffering caused by ongoing assaults across Ukraine.

Wladimir Klitschko (second from left) with his brother Vitaliy Klitschko (center), mayor of Kyiv, on March 14, 2022.

Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

“This is the worst conflict this continent has seen since World War II,” Klitschko said. “During this period, especially in the past two weeks, we have witnessed multiple rocket attacks on Ukrainian soil in which civilians have died.”

In the face of the tragedy, the Klitschko Foundation mounts a multi-faceted effort to raise funds and source supplies.

“We try to help the Ukrainian people as much as possible in every possible way,” says Klitschko. “We know where the need is. If we don’t deal with this crisis now, the consequences will be horrific, not only for Ukraine, but for the whole world.

Although faced with such life and death stakes, Klitschko insists on expressing his gratitude to those who have already contributed to the defense effort and to the philanthropic organizations that continue to send aid.

“Without the support of people willing to give, this situation is going to be very difficult for us, too difficult, in fact,” he says. “And if we fail, the world fails with us. I have no doubt about it.

While he is quick to put his boxing career behind him when discussing today’s battles, the former champion sees common traits linking his experience in the ring to the character of his fellow Ukrainians.

“Our Ukrainian people show great qualities of concentration, agility, coordination and endurance,” he explains. These are the qualities that have helped me as a boxer, and I see them in our people.


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