Vitali Klitschko Withdraws from Ukrainian Presidential Election

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2014

AP Images

Despite being viewed as a strong candidate to become Ukraine's next president, former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko threw in the towel on his candidacy by withdrawing from the race Saturday.

According to Alessandra Prentice of Reuters, he will instead run for mayor of Kiev.

Prentice also reports that Klitschko has decided to endorse 48-year-old billionaire Petro Poroshenko, who will run against former Ukrainian prime minister Julia Tymoshenko.

Klitschko decided to step aside in order to increase his party's chances of coming out on top in the presidential election. Per The Telegraph:

"We have to nominate a single candidate representing the democratic forces," Mr Klitschko told his UDAR (Punch) party. "This has to be a candidate who enjoys the strongest public support. Today, this candidate in my opinion is Petro Poroshenko."

According to Andrew Roth of The New York Times, Poroshenko is now considered the front-runner:

The upcoming election, which will occur on May 25, is set to find a replacement for former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich.

He was ousted from office in February in the midst of turmoil as the Ukrainian people staged a coup to halt political scandal.

The 42-year-old Klitschko, who holds a career boxing record of 45-2, is hugely popular in his native Ukraine. He is a member of parliament and leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform.

His increased level of interest and participation in politics has seemingly ended his boxing career, as he hasn't fought since knocking out Manuel Charr in September 2012. Although Klitschko is no longer in the running for the presidency, he is still in position to play a major role in Ukraine politics.

He will have plenty of clout should he gain election as mayor of Kiev, and he promises to be a major asset to Poroshenko if he becomes president.

The fact that Klitschko was willing to step aside in favor of Poroshenko proves that he wants to instill positive change at any cost, and that is a great sign for Ukraine as it attempts to pick up the pieces and start anew.

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter