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Boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko votes, may come second in Ukrainian election

posted 28 Oct 2012, 07:25 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 28 Oct 2012, 07:26 ]

Ukrainian boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko may pull a surpirse in the parliamentary election and come second.

 KIEVUKRAINE (OCTOBER 28, 2012) (REUTERS) -  Heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko cast his vote in Ukraine's parliamentary elections on Sunday (October 28) as he himself is heading for a place in the country's raucous parliament

The Western-style liberal party of the two-metre-tall Klitschko has rocketed up the ratings and may pull a surprise and come second behind President Viktor Yanukovich's rulingParty of the Regions.

With opinion polls for the Oct. 28 election showing his UDAR (Punch) party lying second on 16 percent support, the 41-year-old has cloaked his massive frame in the mantle of opposition leader left by the jailed Yulia Tymoshenko.

His surge in support, if sustained, could translate into 60-70 seats in parliament for his party - handing Klitschko a powerful 'king-maker' role in the 450-seat assembly.

"We hope very much that these elections will be fair, but unfortunately there are cases telling that a vast number of voters are bribed. If anybody of you is given money to vote, don't be shy, take that money. They are just returning back to you the money they have stolen from you before," Klitschko said at a polling station in the capital Kiev on Sunday.

Klitschko, almost two decades in the fight-game, made his money fairly, most of it outside Ukraine and - quite literally - with his own hands.

But big-hitter though Klitschko is, he faces a bruising challenge to survive in the arena of Ukrainian politics where most punches are below the belt.

"We take a risk here. We put the people's trust at stake. The most important thing is that we have a name and a reputation. We will do everything possible not to disappoint those who pinned their hopes on us, those who made a choice in our favour. We will do everything possible to make Ukraine a truly European country," Klitschko said after he cast his vote.

Klitschko, who trained in Germany for much of his boxing career, won 41 of his 45 victories on knockouts and is known as Dr. Ironfist because he holds a doctorate in sports science.

Commentators are already seeing Klitschko - projecting an honest 'big-man' image that sells well in the former Soviet republic - as potential contender to rival Yanukovich for the presidency at the 2015 presidential election.