By Dan Rafael
Heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko did Thursday what many have expected him to do for quite some time.
“I have decided to run for president of Ukraine [in] 2015,” Klitschko said during a speech in front of the Ukrainian parliament.
Klitschko, 42, who is the leader of the UDAR political party in Ukraine, has been deeply involved in his home country’s politics for the past several years. Klitschko, who had been serving on the Kiev city council, won a seat in the 450-person parliament in the elections last fall, as did more than 40 others from his party.
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How heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko is preparing to run for president of Ukraine. Brett Forrest
The presidential run could signal an end to Klitschko’s boxing career. Klitschko, who has talked about retirement in favor of politics for the past few years, has not fought since making a ninth successful defense of his world title in September 2012, when he stopped Manuel Charr in the fourth round on a cut in their fight held in Moscow.
Klitschko, a three-time world titleholder and older brother of fellow heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, was due to make a mandatory title defense against Bermane Stiverne (23-1, 20 KOs) this fall, but the fight was called off after Klitschko said he suffered a right hand injury in August. Stiverne moved for Klitschko (45-2, 41 KOs) to be stripped of the title, but the WBC put off any discussion of the situation until the first quarter of 2014.
When Klitschko was training for the fight against Charr, he told ESPN.com that politics was his future and that his training for the fight was his vacation from politics.
Klitschko has been around politics for years, but he became much more interested in it when he and his wife and children left Los Angeles, where they had been living, and returned to Ukraine several years ago.
He ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Kiev, the capital of the country, in 2006. That same year, he also was elected to city council.
Vitali Klitschko helped form the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms in 2010 in an effort to clean up government corruption.
In 2010, Klitschko helped found the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms (UDAR), a political party he said was determined to clean up government corruption and give ordinary people a fair shake that Klitschko said they do not have now.
“We want to build democracy in Ukraine,” Klitschko told ESPN.com before the Charr fight. “In Ukraine, you can buy everyone. You can buy every position, every judge, you buy every court decision. The biggest enemy to democracy is that there are no clear rules and so much corruption. Ukrainian politics is simple business and we have to change that. It’s painful to say that Ukraine is the most corrupt country in world and we need to change that. We are for more democracy [and] freedom of speech.”
According to the UDAR platform, the party’s vision is “to liberate the citizens from excessive state control and to limit government intervention into private life. A citizen, not an official, must be the pinnacle of the state pyramid. The government apparatus must serve the citizens and be fully controlled by them.”
Klitschko said the party is growing because there are so many in Ukraine disenchanted by the lack of opportunities and immense government control over many aspects of people’s daily lives. He has tried to work on the problems as part of the city council.
“It’s tough job, to be honest,” he said. “I have learned lessons about Ukrainian politics, and I want to make changes in Ukraine. I am not alone. Together, me and many other people, we have a vision. We are fighting for changes in Ukraine and real democracy in Ukraine.”