Vitali Klitschko, Former Boxer and Mayor of Kyiv, Receives Arthur Ashe Courage Award at 2022 ESPYs: 'A Hero'

Actor Dwayne Johnson accepted the award on behalf of Vitali Klitschko, who remained in his native Ukraine

Kyiv's Mayor Vitali Klitschko
Kyiv, Ukraine, Mayor Vitali Klitschko. Photo: GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2022 ESPY Awards.

Actor Dwayne Johnson accepted the award on Klitschko's behalf, calling the 51-year-old Ukrainian "a man who will tell you very plainly, that sports is part of the reason he is where he is."

"Vitali is a hero, who has shown the world what courage truly looks like," Johnson added of Klitschko, who remained in Ukraine during the event.

According to ESPN, Arthur Ashe Award for Courage recognizes those who find ways through sports to make a difference far beyond the field.

A video of Klitschko's life story played during the broadcast and retold his journey from boxer to mayor.

Klitschko, a former heavyweight champion boxer, has been a pivotal figure for the Ukrainian city since the start of Russia's invasion in February. He helped defend Kyiv despite enduring a weeks-long siege of the capital. Klitschko has served as the mayor of Kyiv since 2014.

His brother, Wladimir Klitschko, also a former heavyweight world champion boxer, joined the effort and is often by his brother's side — which is how it's been throughout their lives.

"We all stand together, and we're highly motivated to defend our country because this is our home," Wladimir, 46, said during one of the brothers' joint interviews with the international press in March.

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"It is a great honor for me to receive this award," Vitali said in a statement to ESPN in June. "I am convinced that this is a recognition of the courage and inviolability of the Ukrainian people, who have been bravely resisting the Russian aggressor for more than 3 months. This is an award for everyone who defends the independence and freedom of Ukraine."

Kyiv's Mayor Vitali Klitschko

Another honor being presented Wednesday evening was the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance, which famed ESPN college basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale won due to his sports contributions and fight against cancer.

Previous recipients of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award include Muhammad Ali, Zaevion Dobson, Caitlyn Jenner, Billie Jean King, Nelson Mandela, Pat Summitt, and Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah.

The ESPY Awards, hosted by four-time NBA Champion Stephen Curry, is airing live Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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