Over the course of his heavyweight boxing career, Wladimir Klitschko has held multiple belts and is one of the longest-reigning champions of all time. He has earned nearly $20 million in prize purses and has probably added another $5 million in endorsement deals. That’s a large amount of money for, well, anyone. But for Klitschko, one thing makes his wealth stand out -- he’s from Ukraine, where extreme poverty leads many parents to abandon their babies. According to a May 2012 UNICEF report, more than 100,000 children in Ukraine live in orphanages. And to make matters worse, there are thousands of “street children” in Ukraine’s cities -- per one report, there are over 150,000 homeless kids for whom seeing another day is by no means a given.
Klitschko, to his credit, decided to do something to raise both awareness and money to help solve the problem.
Klitschko went pro in late 1996 and quickly established himself as one of the world’s top pugilists, winning his first 24 bouts, all within two years of his debut. But his rise to prominence began when when he took the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics in the super heavyweight bracket. In 2012, he decided to capitalize on how he became famous while benefitting the greater good. He and his brother had already set up a charity for impoverished children in their home nation. Athletes raising money for the less fortunate is nothing new, of course. But Klitschko went above and beyond. He auctioned off his gold medal -- something most people would never part with -- fetching a $1 million bid, with the money earmarked to go toward that cause.
And then someone did something even more amazing than that. The winner of the auction forked over the million bucks and then returned the medal to Klitschko. As the AFP reported, the winning bidder wanted the medal to remain with the Klitschko family.
Bonus fact: Klitschko won his gold by beating Paea Wolfgramm from Tonga, a small Polynesian nation of about 100,000 people. Wolfgramm’s silver may be more valuable than Klitschko’s gold -- it’s the only medal Tongans have ever won at the Games.