Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv and a former heavyweight boxing champion, will be honored with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2022 ESPYs on ABC Wednesday, July 20.
The award is given to “a deserving member of the sporting world who makes a difference far beyond the field of play, impacting the world in indelible ways.”
Klitschko, the city’s mayor since 2014, has been a central figure in his country’s defense since it was invaded by Russian forces in late February, serving as one of the faces of the Ukrainian resilience. Together with his brother, Wladimir, also a former heavyweight champion, the Klitschkos pledged to take up arms alongside their fellow citizens and were leaders in Ukrainians’ response to the invasion.
“It is a great honor for me to receive this award,” said Klitschko in a statement. “I am convinced that this is a recognition of the courage and inviolability of the Ukrainian people, who have been bravely resisting the Russian aggressor for more than three months. This is an award for everyone who defends the independence and freedom of Ukraine.”
Klitschko first entered the Ukrainian political sphere in 2006 when he ran for mayor of Kyiv and finished second in the election. He remained politically active even after returning to the ring, and initially committed to running for president in 2014 before ultimately entering the mayoral race and winning. He has since become the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history, remaining a prominent figure in the country.
“Vitali’s poise and strength as his city and country faces unfathomable tests have far surpassed the incredible resolve he demonstrated as one of boxing’s top heavyweight champions,” said ESPN Content Executive Editor-At-Large Rob King. “His commitment to the people of Ukraine has been a global inspiration, and his bravery is a prime example of the resilience of the human spirit. It is our privilege to bestow him with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.”
The Ashe Award has previously recognized Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Pat Summitt and Billie Jean King, among others.
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