Be it sporting events, the space race or international espionage, history has taught us you’re guaranteed a fierce level of competition whenever the United States and Russia are both gunning for the mountain top and it’s almost never friendly. The Kovalev Ward fight will evoke this once again.
It’s a rivalry as old as any of us can remember: the free thinking, ever patriotic, flag waving, good-ol’ US of A against the apparently closed off, communist, economically and socially repressive Soviet Union – or so Rocky IV would have you believe.
Thankfully, in spite of their respective countries’ differences, the matchmakers behind it and the fighters themselves have avoided turning the Kovalev Ward fight into a political stage show.
Thirty or forty years ago this may not have been case. We could have had the iconic yet ironic hammer and sickle pitted against cliched stars and stripes.
Instead, what we have is simply this: Two of the best pound for pound superstars who happen to come from countries with an unstable political relationship fighting to prove who is the better man and, for once, the advertising and media are following suit in that description and ignoring any stigma that may have been aroused due to the combatants nationality.
While invoking some of the awkward international relationship issues may have increased pay per view buys, in this age of political uncertainty and spontaneity the smartest move is undoubtedly the one that has been taken.
What makes this situation even more remarkable when compared to some of the major debacles in political relations we’ve seen in the past, is that it could even be said that the promotion and build-up to the fight has been used intentionally to make light of the similarities between champion and challenger, rather than differences.
In keeping with tradition before big fights, HBO released ‘My Fight: Kovalev-Ward’, their documentary look of both fighters’ mindsets taken from both sides during their respective preparations.
I wouldn’t be surprised if HBO Boxing pick up another Emmy for the broadcast – it was educational and thoroughly enjoyable.
But, in what was one of their most touching and engaging releases to date, HBO chose to focus on the struggles both men had gone through in their youth and their rivalry as fighters instead of highlighting their nations’ various rivalries in the past.
I don’t even think international tension was mentioned even once throughout the whole half hour show – a testament to how far the US has come since the Cold War.
Gone are the days of needless, hate-fuelled enthusiasm for a fight based on whatever flag the opponent may be carrying to the ring or whatever national anthem is sang aloud before the first bell.
I’m sure there may well be those select few in the audience or watching at home this Saturday who wish only the worst on whichever fighter they choose not to side with, for reasons that don’t belong in sport or in life in the twenty first century.
But, that’s okay. This is boxing, after all. A violent, unforgiving sport, and a violent, unforgiving sport wouldn’t be anywhere without unforgiving fans.
Just try to remember who you’re rooting for and why. It’s the why that’s important.
I would be lying if I said that the state of things between America and Russia at the moment is a perfect scenario – we’re a LONG way away from complete sensibility.
But, if nothing else, the good sporting spirit and positive energy thus far shown between both men could serve as an example to both nations.
Forget flags and focus on the fighters.
That’s what we’ve seen so far and, whatever the outcome on Saturday night, it’s a healthy direction for boxing and sport in general.