WBO and WBC cancel Russian fights amid Ukraine invasion

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In the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv sits Mayor Vitali Klitschko, the former WBC heavyweight world champion now in a deadly fight for his country. At his side is his younger brother Wladimir, a former unified heavyweight champion.

Four years ago, the Klitschkos welcomed boxers from around the world to Kiev during the 2018 WBC convention. Now, this global family of boxers unites in support of the Klitschkos, who are defending their compatriots as Russia presses its invasion from Ukraine to Kyiv. Dozens have already died and more than 100,000 are fleeing.

“I fear for their lives very much,” said WBC President Mauricio Sulaimán, who spoke with Wladimir Klitschko by phone Friday morning.

CONTINUED:Hall of Fame boxer Vitali Klitschko, mayor of Ukraine’s capital, vows to fight after Russia invades

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Connected to the brothers for two decades, Sulaimán said he was shaken by their vulnerability as military experts speculate that Putin is determined to dethrone the Kyiv-based Democratic leadership of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The Klitschkos “are amazing people, such great human beings with the sweetest smiles,” Sulaimán said. “However, they are warriors. So humble. So brave. They could take the easy step and flee to leave the country and rejoin their families.

“Instead, they prepared to defend their country.”

Sulaimán said he ended Friday’s conversation with Wladimir Klitschko by telling him to stay strong and stay safe.

“Know that the whole world sends messages of support, peace and well-being to you and to all of Ukraine,” Sulaimán said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is an avid fan of combat sports, having hosted Hall of Fame boxer Roy Jones Jr. and mixed martial arts legend Fedor Emelianenko at his Moscow residence.

Knowing that the brotherhood of fighters looms large in Putin’s life, leaders Sulaimán and World Boxing Organization President Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel on Friday announced measures they hope will affect the Russian leader as he oversees the murderous invasion.

The WBO and WBC have both voted to stop sanctioning fights in Russia during its occupation of Ukraine. The WBO went further by excluding 18 Russian fighters from its ranking of contenders.

“We can touch his soul and his spirit,” Valcarcel told USA Today Sports+. “We want you to know, Mr. Putin, that we don’t agree with this invasion and the whole boxing family wants peace.”

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Among Ukraine’s elite active boxers are current WBO heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, former WBO and three-division champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and former 140-pound champion Viktor Postol.

Postol is scheduled to fight in Las Vegas on Saturday and said he would return immediately after with his wife and 5-year-old twins to Ukraine.

Lomachenko had previously pleaded for “peace and love” to prevail as the conflict escalated, and Usyk urged wartime actions to stop.

“There is no democracy without democrats,” wrote Wladimir Klitschko in a statement posted on social media on Friday. “The fundamental elements of democracy are under threat.

Wladimir also called on citizens to raise their voices for “democracy and freedom” and against Russia’s “cowardly and murderous attack” “for a peaceful and free future for the children of our continent”.

Sulaiman’s organization counts undefeated two-belt light-heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev of Russia among its titlists.

“We are very worried because we have friends in both countries,” Sulaiman said. “They are all good people. We spoke to them. Nobody wants war. Everyone wants peace.

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