Baysangurov poses for a picture with Klitschko and Kadyrov after his victory over Gutierrez in their junior middleweight fight in Brovary

l-r: Kadyrov, Baysangurov, and Vitali Klitschko

 

By Johnny Walker

A recent article in Spiegel Online seeks to use the “guilt by association” line of thinking to discredit Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko for their associations with controversial Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov.

The article, written by Stefan Berg, damns the Klitschkos with faint praise for their charitable efforts and promotion of democracy in Ukraine and beyond, setting them up as false saviors whose democratic ideals are a mere facade for a much darker strain of political thinking.

There is little doubt that Kadyrov himself is bad news. 

This is a man who initally fought for Chechen independence, and who later switched sides to fight for Mother Russia against his former comrades. 

Kadryov is what some might call “colorful”: he brandishes a gold-plated pistol and fancies himself an amateur boxer, having associated with not only the Klitschko Brothers but also with Mike Tyson in the past.

The brutish Chechen strongman, a Muslim who was appointed to his post by none other than Russian leader Vladimir Putin, also has some interesting views when it comes to marital infidelity:

“If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them are killed,” he has said

“Women’s liberation” for Kadyrov means liberating women from their very lives: he is an enthusiastic supporter of so-called “honor killings.”

He is also suspected in a host of other nefarious activities too lengthy to list here, including political assassinations and torture.

The Klitschkos’ involvement with Kadyrov seems to revolve around their promotional company K-2’s signing of a Chechen fighter, light middleweight Zaurbek Baysangurov.

On Dec. 4, 2010, Baysangurov won by TKO over Richard Gutierrez on a card in Brovary, Ukraine, in which Vitali Klitschko and Kadyrov not only sat at ringside, but also posed with the Chechen fighter for photographers after his victory.

Wladimir Klitschko is also purported to have met with Kadryov in 2009 at a boxing event in Grozny, the Chechen capital, and supposedly promised more such boxing cards for Chechens in the future.

So what does all of this mean?  Does it mean, as Berg tries very hard to suggest, that the Klitschko brothers, whose world-wide image is that of squeaky-clean promoters of democracy and freedom, really harbor secret dark ambitions that run totally counter to their public image?

K-2 spokesman Bernd Böente insists that the relations between the brothers and Kadryov are unavoidable given their promotion of Baysangurov.  Boente told Spiegel Online that the Klitschkos have “no official position” on Kadyrov.

To this writer, it seems that at worst, the Klitschkos may be guilty of a lack of judgment here.  It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that business interests got someone into hot water, and collided with his professed values.

But certainly one thing that can’t be doubted or discounted is the commitment to helping the less fortunate on this planet that both Klitschko brothers have consistently shown. 

On December 8, in an article entitled “Wladimir Klitschko Does Good While Doing Well,” trainer Emanuel Steward says:

Of all of the fighters I have known, I have never known anyone other than [Wladimir] and his brother where their mission seems to be helping less fortunate people.  Wladimir never brags about it. He’s really serious about it. He and his brother have fully educated people from Kenya. I have seen checks he’s written. He’s done it in Brazil. He seems to feel like that is his calling on this planet — to help the less fortunate. That’s where a lot of his money goes.”

When measured against a couple of appearances with a questionable political type like Ramzan Kadyrov, it seems that the scales are still tilted heavily in favor of the Klitschkos.

However, in this world where appearances are so important, we might expect that the heavyweight champions have a little more to say about Kadyrov other than a vague and noncommittal comment issued through an advisor.

Wladimir and Vitali, we’re waiting.