Tuesday 29 March 2011

The Politics of Anthony Mundine

The recent comments attributed to Anthony Mundine bring to mind the troubling aspects of mixing sports with social, political or religious themes. The squared ring, the boxer’s home and bastion of individual effort, has ironically served as a pulpit for asserting and promoting wider communal efforts aimed at achieving goals as disparate as racial justice and ideological advantage.
As modern day warriors, often looked up to by many, and living in the age of the media 'sound bite', a boxer wishing to be 'heard' will have no problems utilising the organs of mass communication to get his point of view across.
But those who choose to amplify strident viewpoints will need to brace themselves for equally strident responses and for consequences which may act to the detriment of their careers.
There are those who would claim that a time existed when the boundaries of boxing and extraneous phenomena like politics or religion never collided. That quite simply is not true. Mendoza the Jew and Jack Johnson the so-called Negro by virtue of their deeds in the ring represented a state of affairs some societies found to be threatening and even offensive.
We have of course evolved from that sort of thing, much to the extent that there are no riots in his homeland when Mundine, an aboriginal Australian, trounces a member of the white race or when his Muslim self defeats a Christian foe.
He is of course a member of Australia's original dwellers, the Aboriginals, for long a despised and rejected people. A people scorned and maltreated by their White and Christian conquerors to such an appalling extent that a member of the younger generation like Mundine felt compelled to choose an alternative faith to 'White Christianity' which he apparently found in the 'black/brown '-hued Islamic faith.
It is thus no surprise to hear that the young Muhammad Ali, who converted to a militant racial sect of Islam in 1960s America, was his direct influence. Ali, as we all know moved on but for years made many outbursts that deeply offended large sections of American society.
For comments such as "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong" (deemed as unpatriotic) and other's interpreted as anti-White, his stock fell. So low did his box office earning power descend, that he was forced to leave his homeland and ply his trade abroad.
Anthony Mundine for all we know may have some deep seated views on Islamic philosophy or an informed angle on why the policies of the United States government may have stirred up hatred in foreign lands.
But whatever his scope of knowledge, he failed to convey it in those comments. Instead, he has managed to sound callous and mean-spirited; as though gloating over great pain and suffering.
Boxing, Mudine will not need reminding is a business and businesses do not perpetuate what they cannot sell. The greatest monetary rewards on offer to fighters are to be found in the United States. If Mundine was thinking of maximising his earning potential via that route, he has dealt himself a rather hefty, possibly deadly blow.
Yet, the boxing business, well known for its unscrupulousness and lack of principles may actually provide Mundine with a saving hand. Should he vanquish Sven Ottke in December, it is not at all difficult to foresee some American promoter setting up a showdown bout with some American challenger whose 'patriotic duty' would be to defeat that 'provocative foreigner.'
Mundine it has been reported has since apologised, claiming that his words were 'taken out of context.' For many that may be too little, too late.
Nevertheless, while much opprobrium will be vented his way for some time to come and many will continue to treat his comments as being unforgivable, Mundine will hopefully apply a more thoughtful and tactful approach in the future.
It is not the duty of this writer to issue declamations of Anthony Mundine and his viewpoints no matter how repugnant others see it. Leave it to his conscience. Besides, his fate will be determined by the willingness of promoter's, boxing fans and media outlets to support events in which his name is involved.
The irony of course is that Anthony Mundine, the Muslim Aboriginal, would make a far greater 'statement' on behalf of his religion and of his ethnicity by concentrating on maximising his prodigious talents and letting his fists and not his mouth to do the talking.
(C) Adeyinka Makinde (2001)

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