From boxer to politician: Vitali Klitschko

In 2004, heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko told 60 Minutes “nothing is impossible” when asked if he would run for office in Ukraine. Ten years later, he’s the face of a revolution

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This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Clarissa Ward traveled to Kiev and met with former heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko, who is now a parliamentarian in Ukraine with his eye on a presidential run.

As far back as 2004, when Klitschko first appeared on 60 Minutes, it seemed clear that Klitschko had ambitious political plans for himself.

When 60 Minutes producer Michael Rey first met Klitschko and his brother Wladimir ten years ago, Vitali was preparing for a boxing match that would crown him heavyweight world champion. As he trained for his fight, he also spoke of his passion for serving his country.

"At the time when we did the interviews, there had been a lot of conversation around them about their political aspirations, so it seemed logical that at least the older brother, Vitali, might return to the Ukraine and take up politics after his sports career ended," Rey told 60 Minutes Overtime.

The brothers Klitschko were raised in a military family. Their father served in the Soviet Air Force, establishing a legacy of public service Vitali said he hoped to carry on.

"I never have the dreams to be sportsman," Vitali said in 2004. "I want to be officer to defend our countries."

With movie star looks and a PhD, Rey said Klitschko gave a "very political" answer when asked whether he would consider running for elective office.

"Nothing is impossible," Klitschko said.

Today, Klitschko is the face of Ukraine's revolution and a leader of the opposition party known as the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR). He advocates for Ukraine's membership in the European Union.

60 Minutes obtained recent video of Klitschko leading protesters near Kiev's Independence Square with a megaphone. Despite his boxing history, Klitschko refused to resort to violence, even when he was sprayed in the face with what appeared to be a fire extinguisher.

"That wasn't surprising to me," says producer Michael Rey. "From what I learned of my time with Vitali Klitschko, just because he's a boxer doesn't make him an aggressor....He understands what taking a punch means and what throwing a punch means."