Sunday, 2 August 2009

Rolling with the punches

Taking a break from linguistic slamming for the moment. I am trying to list some of my translating methods, but it has become so routine for me that I've been too lazy to write them down. So, for some inexplicable reason, I'm going to attempt writing on something I normally wouldn't - boxing.

The reason for this is that one particular individual keeps turning up in the sports section - Nikolai Valuev. Valuev is a boxer. Valuev couldn't be anything other than a boxer. Just look at him.

This man is quite literally built like a brick shithouse, there is simply no other way of describing him. He weighs over 320 pounds and is about 7 feet tall. Hopefully this pic can give you a sense of the scale of the man. This is him fighting John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title in 2005.

So why am I bothering to write about him? Well, I guess he's kind of an anomaly in the boxing world. He does have the typical scandal surrounding him - for example, he once picked up a security guard with one hand and hammered him a few times with the other for insulting his wife over her car-parking abilities (allegedly) which led to court action - but there are also his activities outside the ring, which just come off as plain bizarre. He recently defended his diploma on sports psychology, principally the effects on men and women practicing boxing training, successfully at a St. Petersburg university.

In addition to being an intellectual of sorts, he also has a sensitive, artistic side. He wooed his wife with poetry he wrote before proposing, and he's starred in a couple of films. The most well known is Каменная Башка (Kamennaya Bashka lit. "Stonehead") in which he plays a boxer who has lost his memory. Deep stuff, but all respect to him - at least he isn't biting people's ears off (Tyson), or stating that "if we were in prison I would make you my bitch" (Mayweather), or threatening to kill your family (too many to list).

So why even mention him? Well, in his professional career he has lost only once, and it was on points to Ruslan Chagaev, an Uzbek fellow who was the so-called "champion in recess" but shortly after his fight had to retire because he completely tore his Achilles tendon. Valuev has since regained the title and will be challenged soon by British boxer David Haye (formerly cruiserweight). David Haye believes he can take him because, and I quote, "no one has ever tried to knock him out" - a strategy he hopes will work come November.

But look at him. Look at him. How on earth can anyone knock him out? Can you even blame his opponents for not trying to? You'd need a sledgehammer to make him hit the canvas, and even then it would take a couple of blows. Not surprisingly, Valuev's style is extremely basic: he doesn't bother to dance around the ring much, and his big clumsy swings eventually hit their mark. He has none of the grace of Ali, or the grandeur of De La Hoya. Just a brick shithouse. A freak of nature... but there's a sort of weird charm to him, probably because he's one of the few post-soviet Russian pugilists to make the big time in an honest way, whereas the rest of them fell into disgrace in the nineties and ended up working as thugs for the mafia. That reminds me - the criminal world of Russia is an intriguing one, one which differs from the Cosa Nostra of Sicily, and one which I will touch upon later.


  1. wow, I love the language! You've become a real journalist! though never interested in box it was so exitinig to read this. Only if I'm not mistaken it's sort of not finished?

  2. good job man...

    well done!!

  3. *cue Godfather theme..puts pingpong balls in mouth*
    I see you have been writing again..but not carefully my son.
    One of these days I will come to you, and remind you of the time I kicked the living shit out of you in FNR3.
    This day may never come, but if it will know of it.

    That said, I'd be interested to hear about the soviet's mostly ex KGB or FSB these days isnt it? Moscow Rules and all that