“Boxing is a science that adds humanity to a peoples’ conduct & courage to their national character. With boxing, trifling quarrels do not produce assassination and revenge is never finished by murder.” Pierce Egan, 1820
“Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, colour and wealth are irrelevant.” Nelson Mandela
“Politics is comparable to boxing. The only thing is that in politics there are basically no rules. In boxing, you can get a black eye, but in politics you can get poison in your food or a bullet in the head.” Wladimir Klitchko
“In here were two guys killing each other. But I guess that’s better than million.” Sylvester Stallone, Rocky IV.
In 2013, then-WBC Heavyweight Champion Vitali Klitschko helped lead a revolt against a pro-Russia Ukrainian government. Since then, continual violence has plagued the Russian-Ukrainian border. Hundreds have been killed and thousands have been injured. Some have gone so far as describing a full-blown civil war between pro-Russia Ukrainians and the more western-friendly Ukrainians who protested with Klitschko in Kiev.1
Amidst Russia’s annexation of Crimea and escalated militarization of the Russian-Ukrainian border, a team of Ukrainian boxers bravely travelled deep into Russian territory to compete in the World Series of Boxing. Not knowing what to expect, the fighters entered the Arena Moscow as a team.
There were no jeers, no bombs, no gunshots, and no projectiles thrown. There was no crowd violence or ethnically disparaging remarks reported. Rather, the Russian crowd immediately greeted the Ukrainian athletes with polite applause.
Prior to the opening bout, the Russian venue played The State Anthem of Ukraine. The whole crowd rose to their feet in a tremendous showing of respect for the athletes. Then, in a display of humanity through sportsmanship, the Russian and Ukrainian fighters met in the ring as one group and exchange handshakes.
Ironically, many of these Ukrainian fighters found this fight venue to be more peaceful than their own public streets. But war and street violence are chaotic and unpredictable. They are void of order, lacking in structure, and absent rules.
Boxing is violent but structured. It is composed of very specific rules that are [usually] meticulously enforced, and it takes place within the confines of a ring. Buried in the middle of blood and bruising stands a referee whose chief responsibility is the safety of the fighters. It is a controlled vessel with which people of all nationalities, neighborhoods, and even ethnicities can go to war. Through their gloved representatives, these wars are fought without the collateral damage of civilian death and infrastructural annihilation associated with uncontrolled violence.
Human violence has been around as long as humankind, and only an incredible degree of naivety could convince any man or woman that violence will not be around for many years to come. Boxing is an outlet for that inherent violence, and within boxing lies a level of respect and humanity that is lacking in violence elsewhere.
Violence is a vicious beast with whom all people are destined to live. Accordingly, it must be harnessed, channeled, and controlled. Through the sweet science of boxing, mankind can domesticate this beast and live peacefully with violence.
Bill Barner is a former certified “USA Boxing” Judge, Referee, and Trainer. He is a former sparring partner for several amateur and professional fighters and currently practices criminal and immigration law in South Florida for BarnerRossen PA. He has appeared in Bleacher Report, VOICE Magazine, Youngstown Vindicator, and is a regular contributor to East Side Boxing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.