February 10, 2024

1943. Boxing Match Hosted in Moscow

"Moskva Maulers"
Soviet boxer Nikolai Korolev (left) in 1954 (source)

 From Newsweek, September 6, 1943, pp. 90-92:

Moskva Maulers

In the June 7 issue of Newsweek, Al Newman described the AEF boxing championships in London. Now another report on boxing in the United Nations comes from Bill Downs, Newsweek's Moscow correspondent. Here is his story on the fine art of pugilism as practiced in the Land of the Soviets:

The biggest fight in the world is only a few hundred miles away, yet Moscow fight fans jammed dignified Hall of Pillars last Wednesday to witness a boxing card which featured the "Absolute Championship of Russia and Moscow."

Although the German-Soviet go is distinguished by dirty tactics, inter-Soviet fisticuffs are of a brand to make the Marquess of Queensberry feel completely at home. The boxing was the most polite I have ever seen. Infighting in the clinches is allowed here, but Russian boxers, unlike America's Tony Galento, behave in gentlemanly fashion—no elbows, no thumbs, no butting.

The crowd was more or less typical—for Moscow. The hall was crammed with soldiers and women. However, there was little to make a cigar-chewing American fight fan homesick. No smoking is allowed. It is considered uncultured to shout "Moider the Bum." Polite applause greets a good blow, and vocal encouragement is discouraged by disapproving stares. When blood flowed in one of the six four-round preliminaries, the bout was stopped. Boxing and blood don't mix in Moscow arenas.

The crowd tensed when the feature fight was announced. There was much applause as Master Sportsman Nikolai Koroloff, defending champion, appeared in baggy white trunks. A squat 190-pounder with shaved head, Koroloff is a popular public figure at 26. He joined the Partisans shortly after the outbreak of war and later became an officer in the Red Army. He looks something like a gentle, bleached Galento.

The challenger, Ivan Ganikin, is also a Master of Sports—a government-awarded title for specialists in the Russian sport movement. Tall and wiry, Ganikin spotted the champion 36 pounds.

For six unexciting rounds, Koroloff, who entered the ring with an injured left hand, shot his right fist out with piston-like regularity. Ganikin couldn't get out of the way often enough, and even with two good hands he couldn't outpoint the champ. No one was surprised when Koroloff got the nod.

I got the feeling, in this polite atmosphere, that perhaps it would have been bad manners to have taken the title away from a nice guy like Koroloff.