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Ukrainian Warriors in the Boxing Ring

6. December 2012 by Lorena 0 Comments

During the Soviet era, thousands of young men trained as boxers. Many would go on to win Olympic gold, but all were forbidden to have professional careers in the sport. All of that changed when the Soviet Union fell in 1991. After that, FSU states were free to form their own professional boxing leagues which drew hopeful young men. After football, boxing is the sport that's biggest in Ukraine.


Why is boxing so big in Ukraine? Sports writer Gunnar Mendhardt thinks he has an answer. In an interview with boxing magazine The Ring, Menhardt said "Vitali [Klitschko] is a real, real warrior. He’ll never give up. That’s his mentality, his character. That’s how Russians, people from Ukraine grow up; the mentality of people from Eastern Europe. ‘You have to kill me or I’ll kill you’ is the Russian motto. It’s in the mind and hearts of all these fighters.” Some of the best fighters to come out of the Ukraine:


Vitali Klitschko is the reigning WBC heavyweight champion. He holds the second-best knockout to fight ratio in history, having won 41 of his 45 fights through knockouts. Vitali gets his nickname, Dr. Ironfist, from his doctorate in sports science. Vitali Klitschko is the world’s first world champion boxer to hold a PhD. Vitali has also recently gained attention as a newcomer to Ukrainian politics. He is the leader of the Ukrainian political party UDAR of Vitaliy Klitschko. The party, whose name translates as “punch” is a western liberal party dedicated to fighting corruption in Ukrainian politics. This month he became a member of Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament.



Wladimir Klitschko has had an even more distinguished boxing career as his older brother Vitali. He is currently holds the WBO, IBO, WBA, UBF and The Ring heavyweight champion titles. Boxing site BoxRec considers him, pound for pound, the second-best fighter in the world. He first came to international attention when he won the gold medal in heavyweight boxing at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Like his brother, Wladimir holds a PhD in Sports Science.


Like many Ukrainian boxers, Wladimir established his professional career in Germany, where the pay for fights is significantly higher. In 2005, he moved to Los Angeles, California to continue to pursue his boxing career. He and Vitali are the only brothers to hold all of the world’s heavyweight titles between them. Earlier this year, he auctioned off his Olympic medal for $1 million, with the proceeds going to Ukrainian youth organizations. The winner of the auction immediately returned the medal to Wladimir so it would remain with the Klitschko family.



Twenty-four year old Vasyl Lomachenko is the first Ukrainian to win two gold Olympic medals – one in Bejing as a featherweight, and the second in London as a lightweight boxer. He is widely considered the would’s top amateur pound for pound boxer. Besides Olympic gold, Vasyl won a silver medal at the World Amateur Boxing Championships in 2007 and gold medals in 2009 and 2011. He’s coached by his father, Anatoly Lomachenko. Despite opportunities to go pro, Vasyl has remained at the amateur level. His father says that he wants to allow Vasyl’s body to finish growing before going pro. Many sports commentators believe that Vasyl has remained amateur because amateur purses have grown enough that a good amateur fighter can earn as much as a pro without having to travel around the world.



Kid Kaplan moved with his parents from Ukraine to the US when he was five years old. He is widely considered one of the best Ukrainian boxers in history. He made his professional debut in 1919 at the age of 18. He fought 50 fights over the next four years, and became the featherweight champion in 1925. However, he found it hard to stay at the featherweight weight limit, and relinquished the title to compete at the lightweight level. He retired from the ring in 1933 with a record that included 108 wins out of 148 fights. Kaplan was inducted into The International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003.


Andreas Kotelnik had an amazing amateur career. Before going pro, he had a record of 135 wins and only 15 losses. In 2000, he won a silver medal in the Olympics at Sydney. Andreas went pro in 2000 and won his first 35 fights. His first defeat was at the hands of Souleymane M'baye, who went on to take the WBA super-lightweight championship. He had a hot streak after his fight witn M’baye, and won seven straight matches, including a rematch with M’baye. Andreas’s greatest victory was when he beat the previously undefeated Marcos Maidana to win the World light welterweight championship.