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ESPYS to honor Kyiv mayor, ex-boxer Vitali Klitschko

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Graduates hold Ukrainian flags during the Notre Dame Commencement ceremony Sunday, May 15, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.Notre Dame Commencement
Credit: Michael Caterina / USA TODAY NETWORK

Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and a former heavyweight boxing champion, will receive the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2022 ESPYS on July 20.

The award is given annually “to a deserving member of the sporting world who makes a difference far beyond the field of play, impacting the world in indelible ways,” ESPN said in a news release Tuesday.

He has been the mayor of Kyiv since 2014 and a face of the resistance in Ukraine. He and his brother, Wladimir, also a former heavyweight champion, vowed to fight alongside other residents of Kyiv as the city successfully warded off attempts by Russia to overtake the capital early in its invasion of Ukraine. Their determination encouraged other Ukrainian boxers, such as two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasiliy Lomachenko and heavyweight contender Oleksandr Usyk, to return home to join the fight.

“It is a great honor for me to receive this award,” Vitali Klitschko, 50, said. “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 3 months. This is an award for everyone who defends the independence and freedom of Ukraine.”

He had a 45-2 record and won the WBO heavyweight title in 1999.

“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,” said Rob King, executive editor-at large of ESPN Content. “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. It is our privilege to bestow him with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.”

Previous award winners include Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Maya Moore, Nelson Mandela and Pat Summitt. Former North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano won the inaugural Arthur Ashe Award in 1993, delivering his legendary “Don’t Give Up” speech weeks before he died from cancer.

–Field Level Media