Wladimir Klitchsko under fire for Russian boxing comments amid Ukraine conflict

Wladimir Klitschko thanks Great Britain for support in Ukraine

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Former heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko has been criticised for calling on Russian boxers to be banned from competition amid the country’s military invasion of Ukraine. The 46-year-old is frustrated that WBA light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol is set to face Canelo Alvarez in a lucrative clash this weekend.

Sports stars from Russia and Belarus continue to face uncertain futures amid Vladimir Putin’s ongoing military assault on neighbouring Ukraine. Millions have fled the country, and the European response has spilled over into the sporting arena on various fronts. 

In tennis, Wimbledon announced Russian and Belarusian players will be banned from competing in the prestigious tournament, which is set to begin in June. It means the likes of US Open champion Daniil Medvedev and World No.4 Aryna Sabalenka will be absent from the tournament. 

Klitschko agrees with the sentiment of the Championships, and does not believe Russian boxers should be allowed to compete. He and brother Vitali – the Mayor of Kyiv since 2014 – have taken up arms to defend their homeland of Ukraine against the ongoing invasion by Russia.

The two brothers have protested the fact that Bivol is set to face Alvarez at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night. The Russian is due to defend his title against the all-conquering Mexican, and he called on the former heavyweight champions to avoid mixing politics in the sporting arena. 

Speaking to IFL TV, Bivol said: “All his career I support him, I liked how he was fighting and of course I was glad when he won. He is [a] sportsman, he should know sports and politics is different. 

“He was [an] athlete. Now he is politician. It is sad that wants to shake it up and mix sport and politics.”

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The WBA have thus far outlawed Russian boxers from entering the ring with their home flag or have the national anthem played before sanctioned bouts. The governing body have also removed Russian boxers from their official rankings.

The Klitschko brothers believe Russian fighters should be banned from fighting while the invasion is ongoing, despite Bivol having openly condemned the war. Speaking to BBC Radio, Klitschko declared: “[Bivol should] absolutely not [be facing Canelo]. 

“Every sanction, and it’s nothing against the personality or athletes, it’s about the politics of Russia. Every Russian representative in this case needs to be sanctioned, because this way we show to Russia that the world is against this senseless war and that there’s no good in this war.”

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