“If there’s one thing I know, it’s never to mess with Mother Nature, mother-in-laws and mother freaking Ukrainians.”
Skinny Pete, The Italian Job, 2003
Sport and politics are not meant to trespass on to each other’s figurative lawns. Far too frequently, they do. From the cricket fields of apartheid South Africa in the 1970s, the American boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics through to the present day – a swirl of state sponsored doping, kneeling line backers and the awarding of football World Cups on the basis of stuffed manila envelopes rather than full stadiums. The politicising of sport is neither a new nor uncommon phenomenon. They are perennially entwined.
Boxing is littered with examples, from the persecution of Jack Johnson a century ago to the symbolism of Joe Louis’ rematch with Germany’s Max Schmeling in 1938, it is a rich and luminous seam. Fighters possess power in their actions and their opinions that can reach far beyond the roped square in which they ply their trade and politicians are always eager to manipulate the image or popularism of their pugilistic contemporaries. Continue reading “Usyk the Ukrainian hero needs no titles”