As the tension between the Ukraine and Russia rises, more and more Ukrainian athletes have chosen to take up arms to defend their homeland.
Following the example set by the Klitschko brothers, Bellator welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov and two-time olympic gold medalist and ESPN’s no. 8 pound-for-pound boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko both declared over this past weekend that they will join Ukraine’s military.
Amosov released a statement via Instagram (in Ukrainian) on Sunday that he had taken his family to a safe zone, which some people took as a sign that he was running away from his country in their hour of need. But Amosov cleared himself and is now back to defend his homeland.
“I have returned and will defend this country as best I can, with what I can. I love this country, our own. Russia came to our house and started a war here, many people are dying — innocents, women and children…terrible things are happening here,” Amosov said via translation.
Amosov currently boasts a 26-0 fighting record (7-0 in Bellator), and defeated Douglas Lima last June to win the welterweight title via unanimous decision.
Like Amosov, Lomachenko was in a different country when the fighting broke out. The boxer was in Greece when Russia began the invasion, and his flight to Ukraine on Friday was canceled due to air traffic control diverting all flights into Ukraine. However, he was able to fly into Bucharest and traveled through Romania and into his hometown of Odessa to be with his family.
He has joined a territorial defense battalion and was seen wearing military garb in a photo on Facebook.
“We are so proud of our boxers, our real champions in boxing and champions in this war,” said Mykola Kovalchuk, president of WBC Ukraine. “We are proud to be Ukrainians.”
Lomachenko is currently 16-2 with 11 KOs and is a former three-time division champion.