Former Heavyweight Boxing Champs Vitali & Wladimir Klitschko Vow To Fight For Ukraine

“It’s already a bloody war,” said Vitali, mayor of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. “I don’t have another choice. I have to do that. I would fight.”

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko (right) and his brother Wladimir (left), both former heavyweight boxing champions, blast Russia’s invasion of their native Ukraine in joint video (Twitter Video Still)

Former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv, says he’ll take up arms to defend against Russia’s invasion, which began early Thursday.

“It’s already a bloody war,” Klitschko said on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. “I don’t have another choice. I have to do that. I would fight.”

Klitschko, 50, became Kyiv’s mayor in 2014. That same year, he became a leading figure in the protests against closer ties with Russia, reports ESPN.

As Kyiv came under siege along with other Ukraine regions, Klitschko vowed to fight the invasion along with his brother, fellow former heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko, 45, who enlisted in Ukraine’s reserve army in Kyiv earlier this month as Ukraine braced for a Russian attack.

“Now, the Russian president [Vladimir Putin] is using war rhetoric … he makes it clear that he wants to destroy the Ukrainian state and the sovereignty of its people,” Wladimir Klitschko wrote on Linkedin on Thursday.

“Words are followed by missiles and tanks. Destruction and death come upon us. … We will defend ourselves with all our might and fight for freedom and democracy.”

The two towering ex-boxers–who dominated the heavyweight division for years–also shared a joint video decrying the invasion of their homeland.

“This senseless war is not going to have any winners, but losers,” said Wladimir in the video, posted Thursday.

“Don’t let it continue happening in Ukraine, don’t let it happen in Europe and eventually in the world. United we are strong. Support Ukraine.”

Vitali Klitschko has declared a state of emergency and called on the city’s 3 million people to stay indoors unless they work in critical sectors.

Meanwhile, ESPN reports that other active boxers from Ukraine, which has famously produced numerous elite fighters, are also being impacted by the invasion.

Vasiliy Lomachenko, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-division champion, fled Ukraine for Greece.

Heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, who defeated Anthony Joshua in September, was in London earlier this week for a meeting related to an upcoming boxing video game but was back in Ukraine on Thursday.

“Some wrote to me that I ran away; I didn’t, I was at work but I’m back, I’m home,” Usyk said in an Instagram video in comments translated from Russian, per ESPN.

“Friends, we have to unite because it’s a hard time right now and I’m really emotional and worry about my country, and our people. Friends, we have to stop this war; all of us together.”