I don’t much follow boxing, but when I do I read pieces like this one by reporter Nikita Kovalenko. This story is about the boxing match which happened at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow two days ago (Saturday, July 21) between Murat Gassiev (representing the Russian Federation) and Alexander Usik (representing the Ukrainian Entity). The match was apparently an important one, representing the World Championship of the World Boxing Super-Series, with the prize being the Cup of Muhammad Ali. SPOILER ALERT: Usik won the match. Usik is apparently the much more experienced boxer, was favored to win, and did indeed win. But the Kovalenko piece is not about the blow-by-blow, but rather a dissection of the disgusting reactions of Ukrainian politicians, who attempted to hijack Usik’s victory and sniff a whiff from his cachet.
With his economy tanking and his illegitimate junta government on ever-shakier ground, Poroshenko is so desperate these days, and so imbued in “magical thinking” that he sees a portent of victory in every random flock of birds. Or, in this case, a boxing match. And I have no doubt, if an 8-year-old girl from the Ukraine were to win a hopscotch match over a Russian girl — then Petro would crow about it for weeks, seeing as omen and portent of Ukrainian military victory over Donbass, and the eventual violent re-conquest of the Crimean peninsula! But by the same token: Given such superstitious reasoning, I might point out, that, in the opposite case, should a Russian girl win a different hopscotch tournament over a sweet little Ukrainian mite in an embroidered blouse, then Petro, for the sake of logical symmetry, shall be forced to draw the opposite conclusion: That Russia shall be ever victorious over the Ukraine! Because the hopscotch told him so.
You see the point I am making? That, whether it is hairy brutes going at each other in the boxing ring, or sweet children on the hopscotch court — none of these sporting games have, or should have, anything to do with politics or geo-political conflicts. And it is not the Russian side which is politicizing these events, it is solely the Ukrainians committing this biblical sin. Which biblical sin? Why, the Eighth Deadly Sin: Unsportsmanlike Conduct.
Round #1: Petro’s Gloating
Petro, after the match: “I never doubted for a second that Sasha will win! The Ukrainian anthem which rang out in Moscow for the whole world to hear: This is a symbol of our struggle, the approach of our victory. Ukraine is proud of you!”
[Counterpoint: For starters, the Ukrainian side had done everything in their power to keep the match from being held in Moscow. They had fought to have it moved to a European country, so as not to give any additional legitimacy to Russia. But in the end, they had no choice.]
Round #2: Groisman’s Gloating
Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Groisman, after the match: “This was a historical victory of our Alexander Usik! This proves once again: Nobody in the world is stronger than Ukrainians. I call upon the President to give Alexander the medal of Hero of the Ukraine. Glory to the Ukraine! Glory to our Hero!”
[Counterpoint: Before he became such a Hero of the Ukraine, Usik was actually on the Ukrainian Nationalist shitlist. In the past he has refused to emit patriotic slogans required by the Nationalists, and even given the distinct impression that he doesn’t particularly believe in their bullshit. At the very least he has attempted to keep politics out of his sport, as much as he has been able to.]
Round #3: Russia Stays Classy
From the Russian side, everything was orderly, respectful, and classy: Russian viewers registered as happy with the overall match, which they thought was thrilling, and considered the final judges verdict fair. (Twelve rounds with final scoring of 120:108, 119:109, 119:109 in Usik’s favor.) On the Russian sports channel, Konstantin Genrich, while calling the match, noted that “Usik is boxing really well” and “shows remarkable moves”. Nobody in Russia, neither on TV nor ordinary people, denigrated Usik. Gassiev himself, after losing the match, complimented his opponent and congratulated “Sasha Usik and his whole team with a very well-performed job”. Gassiev also prided himself on contributing to a “great” boxing match; to which boxing fans agreed.
It should also be noted, that when the Ukrainian anthem was being played in the Moscow stadium, the Russian viewers all stood up, to comply with this customary show of respect.
While Russia was being classy, Ukraine was being the opposite: The Ukrainian media mocked Gassiev, calling him a “punching bag” and crowing that Usik had “put Russia on its knees”.
Round #4: Usik Stays Classy
None of this disgusting stench sticks to Usik himself, the victor, who personally displayed good sportsmanship both before and after the match. Prior to the match, Usik expressed his readiness to box in Moscow, despite the efforts of the Ukrainian side and his own promoters to move the match to a more “neutral” place. Then, in the Moscow stadium, flush with victory, an elated Usik congratulated the Russian people and the Ukrainian people alike with the following words: “Many thanks to you, Olympic Stadium! People, fellow countrymen! Thank to all of you for your support! Moscow 2018 – baaaam! Batya is in the building!” [last 2 utterances alluding to a popular Russian song]. Usik then embraced Gassiev and consoled him with the following words: “You are still young, you have everything ahead of you, whereas I am almost through. Well done, you are a good lad!”
Usik ended up disappointing Ukrainian politicians such as Deputy PM Gennady Zubko: “I was hoping until the very end, that he [Usik] would don a tee-shirt saying Free Oleg Sentsov [a Ukrainian “political prisoner” being held by Russia] while wearing the victory belt and carrying the Muhammad Ali cup on his shoulders, taking this opportunity to remind the Russians about our political prisoners — alas, such an opportunity was wasted.”
[Counterpoint: Which should not surprise anyone, given that Sasha Usik has distanced himself from the svidomites, the “jumpers” and “casserole-heads” on more than one occasion. As a native of Simferopol, Crimea, Sasha is a Russian-speaker and was even seen once wearing a St. George Ribbon to celebrate Victory Day. A fact which instantly put him on the Ukrainian Nationalist shitlist. And yet now they are tumbling over themselves trying to appropriate his victory as their own.]
Round #5: Russian Reaction
Russian commentators and politicians were disgusted by the un-sportsmanlike utterances of Ukrainian government officials, while being careful to separate Usik from them and express their due respect for his feat. Russian parliamentarian Mikhail Degtyarev, a huge boxing fan as everybody knows, was in the stadium during the match and noted the convivial and sportsmanlike atmosphere reigning between fans of both warriors. Degtyarev called Poroshenko a “provocator” and a “sick man” and, even more to the point, “one who has lost all touch with his own people”. Degtyarev pointed out that Russians always root for Ukrainians; and that all ordinary Ukrainians still root for Russians. Such are the unbreakable ties between the two brotherly peoples, despite all the attempts of evil men to turn them against each other.