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Klitschko uses sport to see the real world

Written by: Staff
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NEW YORK, Nov 22: He holds a doctorate in sports science, goes on missions for the United Nations and earlier this month defended his world heavyweight boxing title at Madison Square Garden.

Vladimir Klitschko took up boxing at 14 to see the world, and the journey has taken the International Boxing Federation (IBF) champion to some of the most glamorous and the most destitute spots on the planet, for which he is grateful.

''Thanks to sports I've gotten to know more about life, had the opportunity to meet famous people and learn from them, and to work with the United Nations organisation UNESCO which helps me understand the world more clearly,'' Klitschko told Reuters in a telephone interview from his home in Germany.

Klitschko, 30, and his older brother Vitali, a former heavyweight champion, have led storybook lives following a similar path that weaves between social conscience and success in the violent world of boxing.

A percentage of ticket sales for Klitschko's seventh-round demolition of formerly unbeaten U.S. challenger Calvin Brock in New York raised a quarter of a million dollars to help build schools in an impoverished Namibian village visited in August by the Klitschko brothers on a UNESCO mission.

''The people there are dying,'' Klitschko, who has worked with UNESCO since 2002, said, describing how environmental changes threatened the way of life of native tribes and how a lack of education threatened the children.

''When you go to the third world countries you see children die right in front of your eyes,'' he said. ''Without education those children have no chance to survive. This is the chance to give them some future.'' SPORTS SCHOOL The 30-year-old Klitschko, who was born in Kazakhstan, moved to Prague and grew up in Ukraine in the days of the former Soviet Union, used his athletic gifts to follow his brother to a top Soviet sports school.

''It started because of my brother. He was very excited about martial arts and was a kick boxer.

''When my brother started to travel he would go to different countries. When he came back he explained and showed me pictures.

''I was so excited to get out of the country and I had the understanding you had to be either a politician or an athlete to get out. As for being a politician, I was too young. But for an athlete it was a perfect time. So it was one of the reasons why I went to the sports school and started to box.'' It was a good fit for Klitschko, who grew to be a muscular six feet six inches (1.98 metres) and won Olympic gold as a super heavyweight at the 1996 Atlanta Games. He won the World Boxing Organization (WBO) heavyweight crown four years later before battling back from a pair of knockouts to reclaim a world title.

The son of a Ukraine Air Force general who is now military attache to the embassy in Germany, Klitschko also followed in his brother's academic footsteps by earning a PhD in sports science from the University of Kiev. He did his dissertation on youth training programmes. ''I worked with different trainers in different programmes,'' he said.

''Many of them were really tough and really wrong, because at this age boys are turning into men and girls are turning into women.

There is a lot going in a youth's body. Your body is changing, your arms are getting longer. You're growing up, you're not a complete person.

TITLE DEFENCE

''Your psychological system is not stable. So it is very important to give the right training programme for those kids.

Otherwise, as happened to many friends of mine, you can get broken either physically or psychologically.

''I wrote a programme and I did tests on 67 athletes,'' he said. ''Then I defended my work in front of 13 professors.

''Two years ago I translated the work into German and presented it at a university in Bonn. I hope one day I can translate it into English and present it at a U.S. university.'' Klitschko would like to line up a defence of his IBF title against one of the three other title holders to unify the belts.

''The most difficult part is negotiating with promoters, like Don King who has rights to some of the champions.'' The unusual champion hedged about his future beyond boxing.

''I want to accomplish something but I don't want to talk about it. First I have to succeed in boxing and everything else just comes on the top.'' Klitschko had no hesitation in giving his slant on the controversial movie satire ''Borat'' that some feel makes fun of his native country.

''I love 'Borat'. I think that is the funniest dude I have ever seen. He's just something different than we have seen before.

''I think it might be great for Kazakhstan because people will go to the country and see it. You remember that crocodile hunter from Australia? Everybody thought that when he comes to New York in the movie all Australians are as crazy as Crocodile Dundee. Many people went to Australia to see that country and it was good for the economy.''

REUTERS

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