WBC heavyweight champion Vitaly Klitschko has dismissed rumors of his links to the mafia. The 40-year-old called the allegation an attempt to tar his reputation ahead of the Ukrainian parliamentary election, as he eyes to push his party to the Rada.
The blackening photos, apparently taken in 1997, depict Klitschko standing by two late Ukrainian crime bosses, Viktor Rybalko and Andrey Borovik.
The latter reportedly arranged Klitschko’s meeting with famous boxing promoter Don King as the trio was caught at King’s office in New York. Borovik was shot dead in Kiev three years afterwards. Rybalko joined his partner in the next world in 2005.
The pictures made a stir in the Ukrainian internet space. Klitschko’s party, Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms (UDAR or “Punch” in English), is among the favorites of the parliamentary race and its leader’s suspicious ties could affect people’s support.
Klitschko was firm in commenting on the issue. “One thing I can say for sure – such people have never been part of my team,” he told Kommersant-Ukraine.
“I’ve been acquainted with many sports fans including those ones. One could find my school photos and say that I was standing by a man who has become dishonorable since then.”