No matter what your feelings are on the reign of the heavyweight champion Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali—and opinions in the United States and the United Kingdom run strong whether pro or con—to deny that they are great ambassadors for the sport of boxing would be churlish.
There's no biting off ears, no getting arrested with cocaine and guns, no profanity-laced tirades (though Wlad has been driven to curse once or twice at his nemesis David Haye) with the Klitschkos.
They are educated gentlemen for whom English is a fourth language and are noted philanthropists, donating large amounts of money to worthy causes all over the world.
"Of all of the fighters I have known, I have never known anyone other (than the Klitschko brothers) where their mission seems to be helping less fortunate people," famed trainer Emanuel Steward said recently.
And now, on the eve of what could be a tough test against unbeaten challenger Odlanier Solis this Saturday in Germany, Vitali Klitschko has again shown that his world-view encompasses far more than just the area of the squared circle.
At the end of a conference call on Wednesday to promote the upcoming WBC title bout, Klitschko made an unexpected, but welcome statement in support of those now struggling in the wake of the environmental and nuclear disaster in Japan, drawing parallels between the current situation and the nuclear accident that happened in his Ukrainian homeland at Chernobyl.
"We want to support Japan during its tragedy," said Vitali.
"I know one of the judges (for Saturday's fight) will be from Japan, and coming from Ukraine, and I was, in 1986, close to Chernobyl. My father was there. And I know how big this tragedy is. And I understand right now the attention of the whole world is on Japan, and everybody is looking how the situation will develop."
Klitschko promised to make an economic contribution from Saturday's fight toward disaster relief in Japan.
"I want to support Japan’s people. I want to support the people who are fighting right now against this tragedy. And we definitely will make a donation from this fight to support Japan. Because I know how hard is it. I know how dangerous it is because it’s touched my family—the tragedy in Chernobyl, I know how difficult it is right now in Japan," Klitschko said.
Finally, Vitali emphasized the role sports can play, not just as entertainment, but as a force for good in the world.
"We just saw the news from Japan and see the news every day. I know all the fans and all the media are watching the nuclear tragedy in Japan. Sport connects people—sport can change the world. And I’m more than sure we have a lot of power to help the Japanese people who have problems–first from the earthquake and from the tsunami and now their nuclear problem."
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