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Sports stars who are fighting on the front line for Ukraine, from heavyweight champ Usyk to an ex-Arsenal star


THESE proud Ukrainian sports stars have joined the fight to save their country following Russian invasion.

From heavyweight boxing champions to a former Arsenal double-winner, many have raced back home to defend their homeland.


The Klitschko brothers are in the front line defending their country from Russian invasion[/caption]

These include the legendary Klitschko brothers, who have taken up arms and have revealed they are “ready to die” in the fight against Russian forces.

SunSport rounds up the sportsman turned soldiers determined to stand up to Vladimir Putin.

Oleksandr Usyk

Slayer of Anthony Joshua and two-weight world champion, Usyk joined the Kyiv Territorial Defence stating his “country and honour” were more important than any fight in the ring.

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Incidentally, he was in the middle of negotiations for a mega payday rematch against Joshua.

But for now, that’s been put on ice as the war rumbles on.

Usyk has been vocal about the conflict, thanking his compatriots for their bravery amidst the bloody chaos.

He said on social media: “We will rebuild our Ukraine! We will invest all the funds we have to restore our beautiful, blooming Nenka!

“Dear friends! Once again I want to say to every Ukrainian who stood up for his country. Thank you very much!”

Instagram @andrii_nebytov

Oleksandr Usyk put his rematch with Anthony Joshua on ice to join the army[/caption]

Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko

As mayor of Kyiv, Vitali, 50, knows that the capital is a key target for the Russians.

He recently urged his fellow citizens to “spend time in the bunkers” as the battle intensifies.

During his days in the ring, Vitali was never ever knocked down in the ring.

He turned to politics in 2005 after retiring from boxing and is now a servant to his country.

He told ITV: “I don’t have another choice. I have to do that. I will be fighting.”

And it’s the same for younger brother Wladimir, who enlisted in Ukraine’s reserve army in early February and has publicly pleaded with Russia to end the war.

reigned as heavyweight king for nine years before losing his crown to Tyson Fury, 33, in a 2015 upset.

He would return two years later in defeat to Anthony Joshua, 32, and announce his retirement soon after, snubbing a Las Vegas rematch.

According to reports, the pair have been added to Putin’s “kill list” which has 24 high-profile Ukrainians on it.


As mayor of Kyiv, Vitaly Klitschko has been hands-on in fighting for the cause[/caption]


While Wladimir has enlisted in the reserve army[/caption]

Sergiy Stakhovsky

The Ukrainian tennis ace didn’t know anything about military combat.

But that didn’t stop him from returning to Ukraine to help his country.

The 36-year-old reached a career high of 31. However, nothing would prepare him for this.

“I don’t have the words to describe it,” Stakhovsky told Eurosport.

“I would never imagine in my life that it would come to this, that I would be in my home city patrolling in a home-made vest, with a gun in my hands.

“I mean, five days before the war was in Kyiv, and a lot of people in American and British intelligence saying that Russia will invade, even then I was 100 per cent sure it’s not going to happen.

“I said there was no chance Russia openly would go into war, invade Ukraine – on what pretext? “There is no pretext for it.”


Former tennis star Stakhovsky is patrolling his home city with a gun in hand[/caption]

Yuriy Vernydub

Last Autumn, the football manager defeated Real Madrid with lowly Sheriff Tiraspol.

Now, he’s prepared to take on the Russian army.

The 56-year-old, who says “he has no trouble using firearms”, revealed a conversation with his son spurred him to head to Ukraine.

He told the BBC: “My son called me at 4:30am and he told me the Russians attacked us. I knew then that I would return to Ukraine to fight.

“We flew home and landed in Iasi, Romania. I then went by bus to Tiraspol, in Transnistria, with the rest of the team on Friday evening and left for Ukraine first thing on Saturday morning. I enrolled on Sunday.

“It took 11 hours from Tiraspol to my home in Ukraine, travelling via Odessa, then through Kirovgrad, Kryvyy Rih and then Zaporoje, but I can’t say it was difficult.”


Sheriff Tiraspol manager Vernydub, centre, defeated Real Madrid last autumn and is now taking on the Russian army[/caption]

Vasiliy Lomachenko

Like great friend Usyk, lightweight boxer Lomachenko is supporting his country during this difficult time.

He was last seen holding a M16 with Ukrainian media reporting he had joined the Belgorod-Dniester Terror Defence Battalion.

The masterful southpaw, 34, is one of the greatest amateur boxers of all time, leaving the unpaid ranks with a record of 396-1 and two Olympic gold medals.

It saw him fast tracked as a professional like never seen before and Lomachenko, who is married to Olena with two kids, became a three-division champ in just 12 fights.

Boxing promoter Bob Arum called Loma a real hero for going back home to defend his country.

He still wants to face off against undisputed lightweight champion George Kambosos Jr. in June too.

Lomachenko, currently serving in Ukraine, wants to fight undisputed lightweight champion George Kambosos Jr. in June

Dmytro Pidruchny

A biathlete, who took part in the 2014 and 2018 Olympic Games, Pidruchny joined the Ukrainian National Guard and ditched the season.

His goal was to defend his parental home from Russian forces.

He also took to social media to ask for donations for the Ukrainian army, help from NATO and other countries, and revealed his thoughts on sport and politics.

He wrote: “Don’t tell me sport is out of politics. It’s connected! Soldiers and civilians of my homeland are dying as you read this. Please don’t stand aside, please.”

He added: “I’ll be staying in Ukraine to help protect our homes and families.”


Pidruchny made a passionate plea on social media asking for help from overseas[/caption]

Oleg Luzhny

Nicknamed ‘The Horse’ during his playing days, Luzhny’s athleticism is needed on the front lines, which is where he revealed he is.

The former Arsenal defender, who won the FA Cup and Premier League with the Gunners, is part of the Territorial Defence Force, putting his managerial aspirations to one side for the motherland.

“Like all devoted Ukrainians, now I’m in Ukraine, with all our people defending our motherland. I joined the Territorial Defence Force,” he confirmed to the Mirror.

“The situation is very tense, the siren sounds three or four times a day, also at night.

“People have to frantically dash to bomb shelters, women with small children, who don’t understand what is happening, they are terrified.

“Entire cities and towns are shelled and being destroyed, people are left without gas, electricity, water and food.

“But our nation stands united like never before.

“We will not give up, everyone is trying to assist in the best possible way.”


Oleg Luzhny is currently with the Territorial Defence Force[/caption]

Svyatik Artemenko

One day before the Russian invasion, Artemenko signed for Ukranian second division squad FC Podylla.

He was given the option of returning to Canada, where he was playing in Winnipeg.

But instead, he opted to stay and fight.

“That wasn’t even a thought in my head to leave or to flee the country,” Artemenko told CBC.

“My initial thought always stayed with me to go enrol and go to war here.”

Instagram @svyatikart

Artemenko could have returned to Canada but opted to stay in Ukraine and fight[/caption]

Zhan Beleniuk

Beleniuk was Ukraine’s only gold medalist at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Now, he’s a member of parliament after wowing all in 87kg wrestling.

Currently, he’s liaising with soldiers and volunteers as they fight off the Russian advance.

“Usually when you lose a fight, there’s another day,” he told the Guardian.

“But here you can die at any moment. And it’s not just your own life. It’s the lives of your family. It’s the future of your country. These are the highest stakes ever.”

He added: “It’s really hard to describe the level of terror in Ukraine. You probably have to be here to understand the extent of it. There are so many stories. So many tragedies.”

Instagram @zhanbeleniuk

Olympic gold medallist Beleniuk holds a government position and is liaising with troops and volunteers[/caption]

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