One can count on the fingers of one hand the number of professional boxers who made successful forays into the political arena. Being the product of the school of hard knocks, the popular opinion is that a professional boxer is all brawn and no brain.
Then again, there have been a few who were able to break the stereotype. Former eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao, an incumbent Congressman, recently announced his candidacy for the 2016 senatorial elections. The requirements for public office, as set by the Constitution, are really not that rigid. At the very least, one must be able to read and write. Pacquiao can read and while he is listed as a left-hander, he has the strongest write, err right, I have ever seen.
Seriously, Pacquiao is on the verge of adding another feather in his political cap and very few of his kind have gone this far.
Dubbed “The Explosive Thin Man,” former three-division world champion Alexis Arguello (77-8, 62 knockouts) went as far as being elected mayor of Managua, Nicaragua, in 2008. Shortly after he retired from boxing in 1995, Arguello became active in Nicaraguan politics and was initially elected vice-mayor of Managua in 2004. Amid vote-rigging allegations, Arguello claimed the mayoralty post in Managua in November 2008, narrowly beating former presidential candidate Eduardo Montealegre. Unfortunately for Arguello, his political career came to a violent halt when he was found dead in his home in July 2009 from bullet wounds. Authorities ruled the death of the 57-year-old Arguello as a suicide.
Former world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko (45-2, 41 knockouts) is now the mayor of Kiev, the capital and largest city in Ukraine. Unknown to many, Klitschko is the first world boxing champion to hold a PhD degree, thus the nickname “Dr. Iron Fist” during his lengthy reign as World Boxing Council heavyweight champion (2004-2012). He put this to good use after he archived the gloves in 2012. Klitschko’s platform of government is anchored on transparency and combating corruption. He is also a staunch advocate of lower taxes for the working class. Klitschko, who is also a very good chess player, is eyeing to become president of Ukraine, but there are issues regarding his residency that he may have to confront.
Roberto Duran, easily Panama’s greatest champion, tried his hand at politics but was not that successful. Another Latino champion, Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez, has expressed interest in seeking an electoral post after he officially retires from boxing.
As can be deduced, it is not easy for a boxing champion to make the transition to politics. For one, the results of an election are not in the hands of the voters, not the boxer’s. A boxer’s popularity during his heyday also does not automatically translate to overwhelming votes in the polls.
Eder Jofre, the greatest boxing champion of Brazil, offers this interesting view on why boxing is better than politics. “In boxing,” he said, “you know exactly who your enemies are.”
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