They never got the opportunity to meet in the ring, but now former heavyweight champions Nikolai Valuev and Vitali Klitschko find themselves in opposite corners of a political war that may become violent between their respective countries.
Valuev, now a Russian State Duma Deputy, spoke to reporters as he attended a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia. President Putin has signed a treaty to officially include Crimea (southwestern region of Ukraine) as part of the Russian Federation after the region voted resoundingly to be part of Russia in a poll 48 hours ago. The Russian parliament is expected to ratify the treaty later this week. Valuev embraces Crimea's loyalty to Russia.
Meanwhile, Klitschko - leader of the UDAR political party and tipped by many to become the next President of Ukraine, held a rally to warn Crimea of the consequences in their decision to become a part of Russia.
"Crimea is today on the brink of a humanitarian disaster. The Ukrainian citizens there are left at the mercy of foreign occupiers and local criminals. There is also a risk of ethnic cleansing. Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians and all patriots of Ukraine are threatened,” Klitschko said.
Despite the potential annexation of Crimea by The Kremlin, Klitschko insisted Kiev would not cut off energy supplies and support to the region.