Bust Him in the Face

By Jeffrey Bellant March 17, 2022 885

Believe it or not, the war in Ukraine reminds me of an automotive conference I went to years ago.

There was a booth in the exhibit hall run by young Eastern European women selling some product.

Talking to one of them, we got on the topic of Russia somehow. I didn’t know that she was Ukrainian.

This was one of the times when Vladimir Putin was flexing his muscles and she asked me out of the blue what I thought of Putin.

Again, at the time, I didn’t know if she was Russian or not.

But I reflexively said, “Someone has to bust him in the face.”

Her eyes opened wide and she shouted, “YES!” Then she went on a very long rant about Putin’s abuses.

Today the Ukrainian people are figuratively busting Putin in the face, though the defense of their country comes at an unimaginable cost,

I’m a longtime boxing fan, so one of the interesting stories coming out of Ukraine is the involvement of current and former prizefighters in the war.

Early on, Ukrainian brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, former heavyweight boxers, announced they would be fighting for their homeland.

The pair were both heavyweight champions at various times between 2004 and 2015 and dominated heavyweight boxing for over a decade. Wladimir is considered one of the best heavyweights of all time.

Vitali has been mayor of Kyiv since 2014 and has been regularly interviewed on TV during the war.

 But the Klitschkos are not alone.

Current heavyweight champion and former Olympic gold medalist Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine makes some tough dudes) has also taken up arms against the invading Russians. A scheduled title defense this summer may be delayed. 

Another Ukrainian boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko – at one time considered the best boxer pound-for-pound in any division and a two-time Olympic champ –joined a battalion in Odesa to fight for his country. 

However, at press time, his trainers were trying to get the former champ out of the country to challenge for the lightweight title.

All this reminded me of boxing great Alexis Arguello, a champion in three different weight divisions from the mid-1970s to early 1980s and one of my favorite prizefighters.

I remember when Arguello, a Nicaraguan with matinee idol looks, challenged Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor for a title in a fourth weight division in 1980.

The epic battle in Miami saw Pryor stop Arguello in the 14th round in a brutal defeat. Arguello lost a rematch to Pryor and retired briefly.

At this time, the Contras were battling the Marxist Sandinistas in Nicaragua and Arguello went home to fight against the Sandinistas. I remember reading at the time that he saw a friend killed near him in a battle. I read that friends and family had urged him to return to the U.S. – that he could do more for the cause with his name through fundraising. He eventually took their advice.

But it says something that these men, who despite the riches and comfort that came with being the best in their sport, decided to risk their lives in defense of their respective countries.

Sacrifice, bravery, patriotism: We all need their example.


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Last modified on Thursday, 17 March 2022 19:06