Men everywhere except two, no matter how successful, are essentially dissatisfied with themselves. Only the President of the United States and Boxing’s Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World get to go to bed each night knowing that they’re not underachievers. All other men walk the earth somewhat of a disappointment to themselves.
You can see it in their downturned eyes—“if only I had grown”; “if only I had taken Iowa.” But they didn’t, and everything else is just second rate at best: that to which one is relegated.
The president of the United States is the most powerful man in the world, the commander-in-chief of the greatest military force in all of history; the leader of the free world. But one wonders if he too wouldn’t trade it in to be crowned heavyweight champ.
At least it is so for men of a certain age.
Of heavyweight champions, Norman Mailer famously wrote:
The closer a heavyweight comes to the championship, the more natural it is for him to be a little bit insane, secretly insane, for the heavyweight champion of the world is either the toughest man in the world or he is not, but there is a real possibility he is. It is like being the big toe of God. You have nothing to measure yourself by.
But for the rest of us, the yardstick is stark — a highly illuminated guide by which to reckon our personal underperformance. We can measure ourselves, and we fall short.
And to make matters worse, a new standard has emerged: heavyweight champion/president. For the first time since, well, maybe David — who stood mano y manos con piedra against the heavyweight champion of his time, Goliath — a heavyweight champion is poised to take leadership of his country.
Ukranian Vitali “Dr. Ironfist” Klitschko (45-2, 41 KO) is the former lineal heavyweight champion, currently on sabbatical as he attempts to fix his country’s increasingly violent and center stage ills (his brother Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko [61-3, 51 KO] at present holds the only heavyweight belt worth mentioning —and the brothers steadfastly refuse to fight each other).
After losing a bid for Mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, the first boxing champion ever to hold a Ph.D., (it just gets worse and worse) was elected to the Ukranian Parliament as a member of the party he founded and leads — the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR). Including Klitschko’s, the UDAR won 40 seats. On Oct. 24, 2013, “Dr. Ironfist” announced that he would run for president of the Ukraine in its 2015 election. He favors an association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, and also favors Ukraine-NATO cooperation — none of which has endeared him to Russia and Vladimir Putin, or, it seems, the United States (as evidenced by the leaked phone conversation of the U.S. assistant secretary of State, Victoria “Fuck the E.U.” Nuland).
On Feb. 19, 2014, holding fast as an opposition leader of 20,000 protesters occupying Independence Square in Kiev — under siege by government forces and beset by increasing violence with street battles reported to have left at least 26 dead (including 10 police officers) — Vitali Klitschko proclaimed as relayed by ESPN to the crowd under fire: “We will not go anywhere from here… This is an island of freedom, and we will defend it.” Klitschko also demanded the resignation of the Ukranian president.
On Feb. 20, NBC News reported that Mr. Klitschko, still there, reiterated the demand for a changing of the guard.
Gentleman, it is clear, a new standard has been set.
Godspeed Mr. Klitschko.
Mike Ricciardelli, has written about boxing for the Daily Record, Asbury Park Press and 15 Rounds.com. He is also the former Legal Media Officer and Managing Editor of HealthReformWatch.com, the web log of the Health Law Program at Seton Hall University School of Law.