Vitali Klitschko Won’t Run For Ukraine President, Backs Billionaire Candy Mogul Poroshenko

Vitali Klitschko, the retired world heavyweight boxing champion who has long harbored ambitions to become president of his native Ukraine, gave up those ambitions Saturday when Klitschko announced that he will not be a candidate in the May election after all.

A dominant heavyweight who captured a version of the world championship three times and won all but two of his 47 pro bouts while knocking out 41 opponents and never suffering a knockdown, the 42-year-old Vitali Klitschko quit boxing last year to return to his home country where he immediately became a leader of the protest movement that ousted Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich.

When Yanukovich departed the country, elections originally scheduled for next year were pushed up to May of 2014 with Parliament Chairman Oleksandr Turchynov now serving as acting president.

Vitali Klitschko Trailed In Pre-Election Polling

As campaigning for the May elections got underway this week, Vitali Klitschko — whose younger brother Wladimir Klitschko is still an active boxer and also holds heavyweight championship belts — was trailing in polls behind frontrunner Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire candy-manufacturing tycoon who was also a top figure in the pro-democracy protests over the winter.

At a convention of his UDAR or “Punch” Party, Klitschko said the “democratic forces” in Ukraine must unify behind a single candidate. He then withdrew his own candidacy and announced his backing of Poroshenko.

“The only chance to win is through nominating one candidate from united democratic forces,” Klitschko told the convention. “I propose supporting Petro Poroshenko as a unified presidential candidate from democratic forces.”

Poroshenko Cites Russian Threat, Calls For Unified Ukraine

Poroshenko then addressed the audience that had come to hear Vitali Klitschko, saying that the Russian threat meant that Ukraine needed to show a united front.

“In the conditions of war, in the conditions of our state being de facto occupied, in the conditions of deep economic and social crisis, politicians should unite,” Poroshenko said. “There has never been a precedent in Ukraine politics when two politicians enjoying a high level of popular support would make such a step to unite. We are laying new political traditions.”

The 48-year-old Poroshenko, whose net worth is estimated just short of $2 billion, made his fortune by holding the controlling shares in Ukraine’s largest maker of chocolate and other sweets. He is known as “The Chocolate King” within Ukraine.

Klitschko Announces Fourth Bid For Mayor Of Kiev

Klitsckho is not bowing out of Ukraine politics, however. Far from it. Instead, the 6’7″ former heavyweight king said that he will make a fourth attempt to become mayor of Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev.

Elections for Kiev mayor and Ukraine president are both scheduled for May 25.

“I want to make Kiev a really European capital, and our country a truly European country,” said Vitali Klitschko. “All the reforms and all initiatives start in the capital.”