Vitali Klitschko leaves boxing to pursue politics

Vitali Klitschko is leaving boxing to concentrate on Ukrainian

politics and his role as an opposition leader.

Klitschko vacated his WBC world heavyweight title on Monday and

said he doesn’t expect to fight again as he pursues a presidential

bid in his home country, where citizens have been protesting for

weeks in Kiev over President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to shun

closer ties with the European Union and push his country toward

Russia.

The World Boxing Council proclaimed Klitschko a ”Champion

Emeritus,” a move that would allow him to challenge the new

champion directly should he wish to resume his career.

”This offer makes it theoretically possible to return to the

ring, which I cannot imagine at all happening as things stand

now,” Klitschko said in a statement. ”I am now concentrating on

the politics in Ukraine, I feel people need me there.”

Klitschko is a lawmaker and chairman of the opposition party

Udar (Punch) and intends to run for president in 2015.

Klitschko has taken an active part in the rallies, urging his

countrymen to continue their fight to turn the ex-Soviet republic

into a genuine Western democracy.

”This is not a revolution. It is a peaceful protest that

demands justice,” Klitschko told The Associated Press in an

interview earlier this month. ”The people are not defending

political interests. They are defending the idea of living in a

civilized country.”

The 42-year-old Klitschko has a 45-2 record, with 41 KOs. His

younger brother Wladimir holds the other significant heavyweight

belts.

”My brother Wladimir will be responsible for further sporting

successes,” the older Klitschko said Monday.

Vitali has not fought since September 2012, when he made the

10th defense of his belt with a fourth-round stoppage of previously

unbeaten Manuel Charr.

”With the current extreme and delicate political situation in

the 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 time-frame to return to the

ring,” the WBC said. ”In other words, under his new distinction

(Champion Emeritus), Klitschko will, in essence, retire with the

option of being able to return to the ring at any time and be

eligible to fight for the title against the reigning belt

holder.”

The WBC said it will soon determine the top two fighters to

participate in an eliminator bout that will yield the successor to

Klitschko’s vacant title.

The WBC’s next highest-ranked heavyweights, are, in order from

1-to-3, mandatory challenger Bermane Stiverne, Chris Arreola and

Deontay Wilder.

AP writer Maria Danilova in Kiev contributed to this report.