Half of the Klitschko Brothers duo that includes younger brother and fellow world champion Wladimir, the 40-year-old Vitaliy has been quoted by the BBC as saying that "holding a political office and being heavyweight champion at the same time are not compatible."
He adds that he will "decide on the future of my sporting career" after Ukraine's parliamentary elections, slated for October 28.
Ukraine's highly personal brand of politics -- prone to the kind of acrimony that compromised the legacy of the Orange Revolution and sparks brawls in the aisles of parliament -- can look a lot like more like the proverbial knife fight than a boxing match.
Witness the hail of eggs, smokebombs, and fists over the fate of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in April 2010:
Then more recently there was the fistfight between lawmakers in May 2012 over a language bill:
I'm sure I'm missing other melees.
But the rough-and-tumble of Ukrainian politics is nothing new to Klitschko, dubbed "Dr. Ironfist" by boxing aficionados thanks to his doctorate. In 2006, he won a seat on the Kyiv city council and took over the leadership of a local political alliance that eventually morphed into his Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (known by the acronym UDAR, which is Ukrainian for "punch"). Two years later, he attracted nearly one in five votes in a mayoral election that he lost to on-again, off-again incumbent Leonid Chernovetskyy.
Pundits suggest UDAR is likely to clear the threshold for parliament and, in fact, could fare well in the voting in nearly four months' time -- even beyond the capital. A late-May poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology indicated strong support for Klitschko's party, placing it third behind the Party of Regions and All-Ukrainian Union–Fatherland.
"The Day," an online Ukrainian website, has quoted Ukrainian sociologist Yevhen Holovakha as saying that Klitschko and UDAR stand to gain considerably from voter frustration. He even goes so far as to say that "Klitschko will make or break the next parliament," adding, "It imposes responsibility on him and his team."
Klitschko's admirers in the West clearly extend beyond ringside, too. His appearance in November in the halls of power in Brussels sent European Union officials scurrying for their cameras and autograph books. The champ even demonstrated a deft diplomatic touch in blowing off Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele's request for a mock photo with both men on their guard, saying he "doesn't fight friends."
Klitschko's potential farewell fight is scheduled for September 8 in Moscow, incidentally, where pro-Western critics of President Viktor Yanukovych complain that too much influence over Ukrainian politics already lies.
Don't be surprised to see many in the West in Klitschko's corner less than two months later, when he goes toe-to-toe with the rest of the Ukrainian political establishment.
-- Andy Heil