Current heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, is now evidently the leader of the opposition to President Yanukovych, who wants to remain in Russia's orbit. Klitschko is now seen as a potential leader of his nation. Klitschko also favors greater transparency for government, a crackdown on corruption, and lower taxes.
At age 42, Klitschko is reaching the end of his boxing career. (His last fight was on September 8, 2012, but he is still the reigning WBC titleholder.) It is nonetheless surprising that he can juggle both roles. Apparently if this political thing doesn't work out, he wants to have a trade to fall back on.
This seems to be a surprisingly common career path for former Eastern Bloc athletes. Alexander Karelin, the great wrestler who won the super heavyweight gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling in three successive Olympics, is now a member of Russia's Duma, or parliament, as a member of the United Russia Party:
Here is a more recent picture of Karelin:
Nikolai Valuev, the recent heavyweight boxing champion, is also a member of the Duma, and also a member of the United Russia party:
(The acromegalic Valuev is seven feet tall and weighs 331 pounds.) Here he is in the Duma:
Even Manny Pacquiao, who has been a world champion boxer in eight different divisions, is now a Congressman in the Philipine House of Representatives:
Strangely, this progression doesn't seem to happen in the US. You never see a Senator Mayweather or Congressman Holyfield.
One has to wonder about the wisdom of voting in as political leaders men whose livelihood has entailed getting their brains battered for the past decade or longer. But, evidently, they don't worry about that in places like Russia and the Ukraine and the Philippines.
Humans were hunters and gatherers, i.e., "cavemen," for roughly four million years. Agriculture came into existence about ten thousand years ago, and technology three hundred years ago. So we humans spent the vast majority of our evolutionary development being selected for traits which would enhance our hunting and gathering abilities. Throughout all that time, the natural leader of any tribe was the man who could best lead the effort to take down a woolly mammoth, or to beat the opposing tribe with which they were constantly at war. And the man best suited to doing those things was often the strongest and most aggressive man.
We no longer hunt mammoths, and wars now tend to be high tech affairs, but our primitive instincts remain with us.
Vitaly Klitschko, at a well muscled six foot seven inches, is a natural leader of men. (There is one caveat to that "natural": he tested positive for steroids in 1996, at the end of his amateur career, but has tested clean since.)
Klitschko recently announced that he intends to run in the 2015 Ukrainian Presidential election. I would recommend this as his campaign poster:
"I will crush our enemies!"
"I will stamp out corruption!"
"This is what I will do to inflation!"
"I will fight for the people of the Ukraine!"
"Vitaly Klitschko -- the candidate of peace!"
(Klitschko does in fact favor greater Ukraine-NATO cooperation, and he and his brother have worked for UNESCO.)
In any case, whatever Klitschko promised, that picture would send the message that he is not just another hack politician making empty promises, but a man who backs up his words with action.
I'm joking, of course, but if he actually did use it, it would likely get him some votes. It would appeal to atavistic notions of what a leader should be. Plus he has that every-man-wants-to-be-him-and-every woman-wants-to-do-him sort of appeal.
As for the steroids, when I mentioned this to my son, he suggested that all national leaders be required to take steroids, "just to help them make the right decisions…..well, the more manly decisions, anyway."
Charlemagne was said to have been six feet six inches, which made him even more of an anomaly in a day when the average man stood five foot six inches tall. There's nothing like towering over other men -- and embodying the implicit threat of physical violence -- to give one a commanding presence.
It's really not all that different in spirit from Californians having electing Arnold Schwarzenegger their Governor. Of course, he was only a fake warrior, whereas Vitaly is a real one. But, he was a real movie star. And more to the point of this post, he was a commanding physical presence. Ultimately, the Governator was unable to muscle his agenda through the state legislature, and ended up bogged down by the minutiae of politics. But that didn't mean that a big part of his constituency didn't secretly long for Schwarzenegger to exert his will Conan the Barbarian-style.
Vladimir Putin is evidently a huge fan of Fedor Emelianenko, the mixed martial artist. It would be interesting to see what his reaction would be to a President Klitschko. My guess is, he will instinctively have a more visceral regard for him, perhaps even to the point of not following through with his threats to cut off those natural gas supplies.
Klitschko's younger brother, 6' 6" Wladimir, is the current WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight champion. There must be a place for him in a Klitschko administration. Perhaps Vitaly could appoint him Attorney General, the same way John F. Kennedy appointed his brother Bobby to that position. Or better yet, name him as his Vice President. This would ensure a virile image for the country for years to come.
Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing the US turn in a similar direction. As my son said back when he was in high school, "As long as we're going to have a black President, why couldn't we get someone exciting, like Mike Tyson?"