Ukrainian kickboxing champion killed in war with Russia

A Ukrainian kickboxing champion was killed while fighting on the frontlines against Russia's forces.

By: Karim Zidan | 2 months ago
Ukrainian kickboxing champion killed in war with Russia
Vitaly Merinov

A kickboxing champion from Ukraine was killed while fighting on the frontlines in Russia

Vitaly Merinov died in hospital on March 31 according to the mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk, a city in the west of Ukraine.

“Four-time kickboxing world champion, Ukrainian universal combat champion, boxing master Vitaliy Merinov went to war on the first day of a full-scale invasion,” Mayor Ruslan Martsynkiv wrote on Facebook. “During one of the fights, Vitaly received a gunshot wound in his leg. He recovered and returned to the front again and defended Ukraine to the last breath. 

“He has a wife and a two-year-old daughter left. Sincere condolences to the family and loved ones. Eternal memory to the Hero!”

The four-time champion previously served on the Executive Committee of Ivano-Frankivsk City Council.

According to Youth and Sports Minister Vadym Gutzeit, more than 250 Ukrainian athletes have been killed since the war began on Feb. 24, 2022. Merinov is the latest among several combat sports athletes who have perished during the war. 

In March 2022, a kickboxing champion and member of the controversial Azov regiment, an ultra-nationalist unit of the National Guard of Ukraine that includes neo-Nazis, was while fighting in Mariupol. Three months later, Ukrainian boxer Oleg Prudky was killed while fighting in the war.

Last week, a Ukrainian boxer who was a medalist at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games was killed while serving in the occupied eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk region. The 22-year-old reportedly refused to take part in last year’s European Boxing Confederation (EUBC) Men’s European Boxing Championships in Armenia in order to join his country’s armed forces.

“On March 10, silver medalist of the 2018 Youth Olympics Maksym Galinichev laid down his life for independent Ukraine,” Ukrainian skeleton racer Vladyslav Heraskevych wrote on Twitter. “Glory to hero.”

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is considering readmitting Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competitions as neutral. IOC President Thomas Bach advised sports federations that individual athletes from the aforementioned countries should be allowed to return to competition under a neutral status—without an identifying flag or national anthem—as long as they do not show solidarity with their country’s ongoing invasion and are not linked to the country’s military or national security agencies. Russian and Belarusian athletes would also be banned from taking part in team sports such as basketball and football (soccer). 

Ukraine’s Government has since responded by declaring athletes from the country would not participate in any qualifying events for the Paris 2024 Olympics where there are Russian or Belarusian competitors. Sports federations that do not abide by the boycott will be stripped of their national recognition.

“Yesterday, I attended another funeral of a good acquaintance of mine, who gave more than 20 years to athletics and died in the Kharkiv area. He left behind three children. He volunteered for his second war. And he wasn’t a canteen cook, let’s put it that way. That is, he was serving in combat units,” Oleh Nemchinov, the Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, said during a televised interview on Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne last week.

“So, I want to tell our fellow athletes who are worried that because of the IOC’s decisions and the admission of Russians or Belarusians to the competitions, respectively, that Ukrainians will not be able to participate, that their careers will be ruined or something to that effect. But actually, you and your children’s lives will be saved.”

Ukraine’s government has also threatened a full boycott of the Games. Poland’s sports minister was also reportedly assembling a coalition including the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and Japan, to oppose Russian and Belarusian inclusion in the Games. 

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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