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Vitali Klitschko quits pugilism for politics: 'My people need me'

December 17, 2013 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Vitaly Klitschko has received mass adulation in his native Ukraine since announcing his political ambitions
Vitaly Klitschko has received mass adulation in his native Ukraine since announcing his political ambitions
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • WBC heavyweight champion hints at end of career to fight political battle in Ukraine
  • The older of the Klitschko brothers has been heavyweight world champion since 2008
  • The political situation is tense in Ukraine with public protests against current leadership
  • Klitschko has option to return to the ring and win back title as Champion Emeritus

(CNN) -- Protesters on Khreshchatyk, the main street of the Ukraine capital Kiev, have warned of "blood and war" from their position on a barricade made of snow and wood.

Their would-be savior is Vitali Klitschko, a man all too familiar with blood and war during an illustrious boxing career which appears to have finally come to a close with Dr Ironfist announcing his plan to focus solely on politics rather than pugilism.

The older of the Klitschko brothers is not used to losing -- he suffered just two defeats in his 47-fight professional career and has been World Boxing Council heavyweight champion since beating Sam Peter in October 2008.

But the 42-year-old has a bigger fight ahead of him as an opposition leader to current president Viktor Yanukovych, and is seen as the popular choice to lead his country out of its current mire.

Talking about a possible return to the ring, Klitschko, who has been named Champion Emeritus by the WBC, said: "That is something I currently cannot imagine. My focus is on politics in Ukraine and I feel the people there need me."

Fighting for Ukraine
2012: Boxing champ enters political ring
Newlyweds Mikhail and Margarita Nakonechniy kiss in front of barricades on Independence Square in a gesture of support for pro-Europe activists in Kiev, Ukraine, on Saturday, December 21. Protesters have poured into the streets of the Ukrainian capital, angered by their government's move away from the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. Newlyweds Mikhail and Margarita Nakonechniy kiss in front of barricades on Independence Square in a gesture of support for pro-Europe activists in Kiev, Ukraine, on Saturday, December 21. Protesters have poured into the streets of the Ukrainian capital, angered by their government's move away from the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
Ukraine protests
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Photos: Ukraine protests Photos: Ukraine protests

The heavyweight is seen as the public's political savior in a country where foreign reserves fell 9% last month to $19 billion, with the treasury in the precarious position of having only sufficient funds to stay afloat for a few weeks.

There had been talks of a loan from the International Monetary Fund and closer ties to the European Union but those discussions have since stalled with Yanukovych instead opening talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin over possible much-needed loans.

Of that Putin meeting, Klitschko said: "No one from the media or among Ukraine's citizens knows the true aim of this visit and we will only know afterwards. I'm sure that the visit is wrong and nobody knows the conditions of these negotiations."

Klitschko has entered politics under the befitting Udar (Punch) party banner, a nod to his illustrious sporting career.

In a statement, the WBC paid tribute to the boxer following his decision: "With the current extreme and delicate political situation in Ukraine, Vitali has answered his country's call to fight for human rights and equality. Accordingly, Vitali will not be able to provide the WBC with a predictable timeframe to return to the ring.

"In light of these considerations, the WBC Supreme Council and the WBC Board of Governors have voted unanimously to name Vitali Klitschko WBC Heavyweight Champion Emeritus.

"Very few fights have received such an honorable distinction, which will entitle Vitali to fight for the WBC heavyweight championship when he is ready to return to the ring."

Following the WBC's announcement, Klitschko added: "I thank the WBC and its president Jose Sulaiman for the support in our battle for democracy and freedom in Ukraine."

Read: Ukrainian boxer Klitschko to stand for president

Read: Klitschko - why I sold my Olympic gold medal for $1m

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