Vitali Klitschko, former heavyweight world champion boxer and Mayor of Kiyv who remained in Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion and defended the capital alongside the country’s military, has received the prestigious Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2022 ESPYs.
Vitali, who has been the Mayor of Kiyv as well as the head of the Kyiv City State Administration since 2014, reigned as the WBC heavyweight champion between 2008 and 2012, alongside his brother and former unified heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
This award is for every Ukrainian: Vitali Klitschko
Back in February, “Dr Iron Fist” joined their country’s defense against Russian forces, helping defend Kiyv against a siege that spun across a week. Wladimir also became a part of the Ukrainian defense, alongside other Ukrainian citizens, as well as fellow boxers from the country such as Vasiliy Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk.
Actor and former pro wrestler Dwayne Johnson accepted the award on behalf of Vitali, addressing him as a man “who will tell you very plainly, that sports is part of the reason he is where he is.”
“Vitali is a hero, who has shown the world what courage truly looks like,” Johnson added. [H/T Yahoo.com]
Honoring the tennis legend Arthur Ashe, who was an important figure in the Civil Rights movement in the United States, as well as opposed Apartheid in South Africa and was also a symbol of the fight against AIDS, ESPN states that the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage is awarded to those who “possess strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost.”
“Thank you very much for this great Arthur Ashe award,” said Vitali, “Big honor to be someone who receives this award. I know so many famous athletes, sportsmen and personalities take this award- my hero, Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela. By the way, Nelson Mandela taught very famous saying, ‘Sport have a power to change the world.'”
“Sport changed my life. Sport changed the lives of millions. but right now, I’m a fighter. I’m fighting not in the sport ring. I’m fighting as millions of Ukrainians for the independence of our country, for our territorial integrity. We’re fighting for our values and our principles… Democratic values, democratic principles. I want to say thank you very much who support Ukraine in this war, senseless war. And we have to do everything to stop this war, to bring back peace to Ukraine.”
“This award is not for me. This award is for every Ukrainian who is fighting… for the future of democracy, for the future of our homeland, Ukraine,” he added.