* Boxer-turned-politician backs confectionary oligarch
* 'Chocolate King' Poroshenko to run in May 25 election
* Poroshenko to face ex-PM Tymoshenko
(Adds quotes, Party of Regions candidate)
By Alessandra Prentice
KIEV, March 29 Ukraine's presidential election
effectively became a two-horse race on Saturday after
boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko pulled out and threw
his weight behind confectionary oligarch Petro Poroshenko.
Klitschko's withdrawal sets up a May 25 contest between the
man known as the 'Chocolate King' and former prime minister,
Poroshenko, 48, confirmed his candidacy late on Friday.
Several opinions polls already had him in the lead even before
he said he would run to succeed ousted president Viktor
Poroshenko was an early and influential supporter of the
'Maidan' popular uprising that toppled Yanukovich in late
February, three months after he spurned a deal on closer ties
with the European Union and plunged the country of 46 million
people into turmoil.
Speaking on Saturday, Poroshenko said the political forces
that brought down Yanukovich must stick together to tackle the
huge economic and security challenges facing Ukraine.
"I'm convinced it would be a betrayal of Maidan if we were
not united," he told a meeting of Klitschko's UDAR (Punch)
party, Interfax news agency reported.
"I'm convinced that today the volume and scale of the
challenges facing the state ... demand this kind of unity."
Ukrainians will vote under the shadow of Russia's annexation
of Ukraine's Black Sea Crimea peninsula.
Like Tymoshenko, who announced her candidacy on Thursday,
Poroshenko has promised to strengthen Ukraine's armed forces and
protect its borders, which the West fears are still under threat
from a possible Russian incursion into Russian-speaking regions
of eastern Ukraine.
"We need to build a new, efficient and modern Ukrainian
army, which will defend the sovereignty and integrity of our
country," Poroshenko said late on Friday as he announced he
would run for president.
He officially submitted his candidacy to the election
authorities in Kiev on Saturday.
The oligarch, whose net worth was estimated by Forbes at
$1.3 billion, is the owner of Roshen, one of the world's top
twenty confectionary firms but which has borne the brunt of
trade sanctions from Russia since last year.
He is an experienced politician, having held several
ministerial posts including a brief stint as economy minister
A prominent backer of the 2004-05 Orange Revolution against
the election fraud and sleaze of Ukraine's post-Soviet
establishment, Poroshenko campaigned for the role of prime
minister in its wake, but lost out to Tymoshenko, who co-led the
Klitschko urged his supporters to back Poroshenko, and
announced he would run instead for mayor of the capital. So far,
no other candidate is seen mounting a serious challenge to the
The parliamentary faction Party of Regions, Ukraine's former
ruling party, also announced its candidate on Saturday.
Deputies voted for Mykhailo Dobkin, a businessman and former
governor of the eastern city of Kharkiv, who fiercely opposed
the Maidan uprising.
(Writing by Matt Robinson and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by