Russian boxer Bivol faces Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez in a mandatory defence of his WBA light heavyweight title at the weekend aiming to extend his undefeated record of 19 straight wins – 11 by knockout.
The pair’s clash will take place on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas – a far cry from where the Klitschko brothers continue to defend Ukraine’s capital Kyiv from his country’s military invasion.
However, Klitschko, whose brother Vitali is the current Mayor of Kyiv, has urged the WBA to ban Bivol from boxing as a result.
Asked if the fight should go ahead, Klitschko replied: “Absolutely not.
“Every sanction, and it’s nothing against the personalities or athletes, it’s about the politics of Russia, every Russian representative needs to be sanctioned.
“Because this way we show to Russia that the world is against his senseless war and there is no good in this war.
“It is important that this boxer [Bivol] is forbidden from fighting in America, just as all Russian athletes are being banned from international competition.”
Reacting to those comments, Bivol told iFL TV: “All his career I support him, I liked how he was fighting and of course I was glad when he won.
“He is [a] sportsman, he should know sports and politics is different. He was [an] athlete. Now he is a politician.
“It is sad that he wants to shake it up and mix sport and politics.”
Bivol’s US-based trainer Joel Diaz also admitted that he does sympathise with Klitschko to some extent, but says he is just there to do a job at the end of the day.
Speaking to BBC Sport, he said: “I understand that they [Ukraine] are going through some really tough moments and I don’t blame them for saying that [Russian athletes should be banned]. Me as a human being, I understand the suffering families, there are a lot of problems in Ukraine.
“Bivol has nothing to do with politics, he has nothing to do with his country having a problem with another country, he’s just doing what he’s been doing all his life – getting ready to fight, being ready to perform. And being ready for the biggest opportunity of his lifetime.
“The only thing I can tell you is that it’s not the athletes’ fault. They’re just working to feed their families. Boxers train to box.
“That’s what they do. I just don’t see that the athletes should be blamed for political problems. Getting sport involved with politics is a problem.”