ESPN will award Vitali Klitschko with the ESPYS’ Arthur Ashe Award for Courage in July’s ceremony.
After Klitschko’s successful boxing career, the former heavyweight boxing champion transitioned to politics in 2006, and has held Kyiv’s mayoral office since 2014. Most recently, Klitschko joined the front lines after the city of Kyiv was invaded by Russian forces in February 2022.
The award honors those “whose contributions have transcended sports.”
“It is a great honor for me to receive this award,” Klitschko said. “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, who grew up boxing in the old Soviet amateur system, is most known for his classic blow-for-blow 2003 fight against Lennox Lewis, which ended with a TKO loss in the sixth round for the Ukrainian. Klitschko finished his professional career with a 45-2 record.
Three years after his notable fight against Lewis, Klitschko ran for mayor of Kyiv but finished second in the election. Returning back to the ring, the boxer remained politically active, leading to his decision to run for mayor of Kyiv in 2014. Since his political win, Klitschko has remained a prominent figure in Ukraine, as the longest-serving mayor in Kyiv’s history.
“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,” ESPN content chief Rob King said. “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.”
Vitali is to be honored with the Ashe Award on July 20 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. The award has become one sports’ most prestigious honors, awarded to, among others, Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Pat Summitt and Billie Jean King.