With the scrutiny surrounding Sergey Kovalev, his choice of social media posts and thoughts on women who box in recent years, surely he would think twice and phone a friend before sharing anything that may have the hint of racism, prejudice or sexism.
On Friday the ex-unified light heavyweight champion posted a video meme of a made up conversation between himself and light heavyweight champion Andre Ward. Kovalev and his fans may have found it amusing but in reality it’s another example that illustrates his tone deaf attempts at humor.
Before we break down this latest post, let’s take a look back at how we arrived here.
In September 2016, Kovalev crossed paths with two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Claressa Shields. Following the meeting Shields says in an interview that Kovalev told her upon introduction women should be at home.
You gotta put your headphones on. You can’t really hear what everybody says to you. Kovalev made a joke, it’s my first time meeting him, and he’s like ‘Women should be at home’ and I’m like ‘Kovalev watch it! ‘
“He called his self joking but I know Russians believe in that kinda crazy stuff.”
While he’s certainly entitled to his opinion, perhaps a little less candor when sharing it with someone he’s just met who clearly does not share his tenets. Shields later went on to share on her Facebook that she understood it was a cultural norm for him.
“Adonis Looks Great”
Which leads us to the earliest known incident.
In 2014, following his victory over Ismayl Sillakh, Kovalev made the references “Negro” and “dark-skinned people”, leading Egis Klimas publicly declaring, “Sergey Kovalev is not a racist” in an interview with Ring Magazine.
Egis Klimas, manager of WBO light heavyweight belt holder Sergey Kovalev, told RingTV.com on Friday that his fighter did not mean to malign African American boxers in a recent interview on the Russian website Allboxing, which has has become the subject of a brewing controversy.
But former light heavyweight champion Beibut Shumenov of Kazakhstan disagreed with Klimas’ assertion that Kovalev isn’t racist is his own interview with Ring Magazine.
RingTV.com: What are your thoughts Sergey Kovalev’s comments about African Americans? Were they controversial or not in nature, due to the Russian language? In other words, what was your interpretation of what Kovalev actually said?
Shumenov: I was shocked when I heard about his racist comments that he said in reference about African Americans. There was no misinterpretation or lost in Russian-to-English translation of what he said.
He will have to live with the derogatory words that he said in print and video. A lot of my team are African Americans, and they are more than members of my team, they are family to me. They have my back and I have theirs, and I have zero respect for racist views of any kind.
Which brings us back to 2017 and the problem with his choice of humor with regards to opponent Andre Ward. The video meme is meant to depict a conversation between the two gentlemen and what they would actually say vs. what they are thinking. The “Ward” character repeatedly types and erases the words “N***a” “F***ot.” Fans and foes alike of Ward will concede, if they’re honest, that they’ve never seen any interview, public interaction or social media posts with examples of Ward using that type of language. Using a meme attributing that particular word choice to Ward gives the perception that Kovalev believes all black people speak that way (Kovalev deleted the tweet shortly after this story posted, but we have the screenshots and video).
Boxing media has a responsibility to stop giving him a pass on this because it only reinforces a lot of stereotypes about the sport of boxing.
Whatever you feel about Andre Ward the boxer or who won their first fight, Ward the person is a pretty stand up guy and shouldn’t be subjected to racial stereotypes by his opponent.
With a growing grasp of the English language, permanent residency in the United States, and several past experiences, Kovalev is beyond the point of feigning ignorance to what he was saying and he needs to stop.