KNOCKOUT

How This Chiseled Boxing Champ Became The Unlikely New Face Of Gay Rights In Poland

WAZENIE TYGRYSAThe Polish gay rights movement has a new advocate who is equal parts unlikely as he is effective. And boy can they use the help. Boxer Dariusz Michalczewski, or ‘Tiger’ as he’s known to just about everyone in the country, became a household name during his decade-long dominance as a light heavyweight champion.

Tiger defected to Germany in 1988, where he continued his boxing career under the German flag and became an international star.

Now retired, he’s lending some much needed support to the fight for gay rights in Poland, where same-sex marriage and gay adoption remain goals just barely on the horizon.

But Tiger’s support is more than a mere symbolic gesture. He’s causing the needle to move.

He first appeared in photographs attending an event organized by gay rights group Shoulder to Shoulder on Equality — L.G.B.T. and Friends with a sign that read, “I am an ally of L.G.B.T. people, because I want to live in a country where my gay friends are not discriminated against.”

In a TV appearance, he engaged directly with right-wing politicians, asking them: “What if your daughter were a lesbian? What if your son were gay? If it were my child, I would love him very much. And I would support him in everything, because he’d be my child!”

The fact that he is so universally liked among Poles means his support does not go unnoticed. Marek Jakubiak, owner of the popular Polish brewery Ciechan, had some choice words about the former pugilist’s new role as advocate.

He took to Facebook, posting: “Boxing is supposedly harmful and this is the indisputable proof!” He also made some disparaging comments about Tiger’s mother. Classy.

Jakubiak’s comments have lead to a boycott of Ciechan beer, which represents a major step forward in public opinion for gay rights in the conservative Catholic nation. It’s a boycott led by liberal activists, but a successful one nonetheless.

Tiger told the New York Times:

“I am worried that two generations will have to die off and it will only be the third that will have a normal attitude toward gays and lesbians. I am very sorry for those who are at the barricades fighting for their rights because they probably won’t succeed in their lifetimes. To me, their struggle is like the struggle against Communism.”

We wish Tiger and the fight for rights in Poland many more successes down the road.

On a completely unrelated note, the Times also points out that the 1995 Marky Mark song “No Mercy” was written about Tiger. He and Mark Whalberg became friends in the early ’90s.

via New York Times