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Kyiv mayor, boxing legend Vitali Klitschko wins ESPN's Arthur Ashe Courage Award

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko announced in February that he would take up arms to defend Ukraine amid a Russian invasion. File Photo by Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko announced in February that he would take up arms to defend Ukraine amid a Russian invasion. File Photo by Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE

June 14 (UPI) -- Former boxer Vitali Klitschko, who serves as mayor of Kyiv, will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2022 ESPYs for his efforts in Ukraine's defense amid a Russian invasion, ESPN announced Tuesday.

He will receive the award during the annual ESPY's show at 8 p.m. EDT July 20 on ABC.

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"It is a great honor for me to receive this award," Klitschko said in a news release. "I am convinced that this is a recognition of the courage and inviolability of the Ukrainian people, who have been bravely resisting the Russian aggressor for more than three months.

"This is an award for everyone who defends the independence and freedom of Ukraine."

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Klitschko, a former heavyweight boxing champion, became Kyiv mayor in 2014. He said in February that he would join Ukraine in its defense against the Russians.

His brother, fellow former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, also joined the Kyiv Territorial Defense Brigade earlier this year.

Current heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, fellow top boxer Vasily Lomachenko and mixed martial arts champion Yaroslav Amosov were among the other fighters who joined Ukrainian defense forces, but Vitali drew the most exposure as leader for the people of Kyiv and a constant voice against the invasion.

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He remains one of the country's most visible citizens -- alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky -- amid the turmoil.

"Vitali's poise and strength as his city and country faces unfathomable tests have far surpassed the incredible resolve he demonstrated as one of boxing's top heavyweight champions," ESPN editor-at-large Rob King said.

"His commitment to the people of Ukraine has been a global inspiration, and his bravery is a prime example of the resilience of the human spirit."

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Billie Jean King, Muhammad Ali and Nelson Mandela are among previous winners of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which ESPN said is given to a "deserving member of the sporting world who makes a difference far beyond the field of play, impacting the world in indelible way."

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