Nelson Mandela is widely regarded as the embodiment of a true statesmen; a man of the people. The 27 years he endured whilst imprisoned under the morally inexcusable system of white supremacist rule in apartheid-era South Africa & the dignity & humility with which he greeted freedom & ascension to the Presidency of the nation forged an image of him on a global scale as a byword for the triumph of the human spirit. As a study in human potential unleashed & harnessed with focus & determination I fathom his only partially publicized background as an amateur heavyweight boxer may hold some vital insights.
Quoting from his autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom, perhaps the correlation was not lost on the great man himself:
“I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it. I was intrigued by how one moved one’s body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced onself over a match.”
Mandela goes on to describe his conceptualization of the sport’s underlying principals of competitive fairness & the positive impact training had on him & his mental state during the years of the struggle against white minority rule in South Africa.
“Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, color, and wealth are irrelevant…I found the rigorous exercise to be an excellent outlet for tension and stress. After a strenuous workout, I felt both mentally and physically lighter. It was a way of losing myself in something that was not the struggle. After an evening’s workout I would wake up the next morning feeling strong and refreshed, ready to take up the fight again.”
Nelson Mandela, the boxer, gives new meaning to the term, “People’s Champion”. And maybe, just maybe, he ranks among the most notable boxers of all-time if only for the manner in which he was able to harness & utilize the positive physical & psychological impact the sport had on him for the betterment of his society & the fight against racist tyranny everywhere.
Matt Hamilton, reporting!
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