Boxers-Turned-Politicians: Pacquiao vs Klitschko

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 12/16/2013 09:17:00 AM
Fighting Russkies, Striking a Blow for the EU
If this were an actual fight, it would be a grossly unfair one since Manny Pacquiao stands 1.69m tall and weighs 65kg whereas Vitali Klitschko--older brother of fellow heavyweight champion Wladimir of Hayden-Panettiere-is-my-girl fame--is 2.01m tall and weighs 110kg. However, this comparison is grossly unfair in other respects of political consequence. In terms of celebrity, the Filipino boxer is far better known competing in the welterweight division where the glamor, money and attention in prizefighting is now concentrated, whereas the heavyweight division lacks compelling personalities. Yet, Vitali Klitschko makes up for the lack of star power with brain power since, like his brother, he has a PhD. Manny Pacquiao famously dropped high school to start fighting since his family needed the money.

I bring up this comparison because the Klitschko brothers are among the most prominent figures in the current campaign to force Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych to ink a free trade deal with the European Union. Problematically for the brothers and their prospects for Ukraine politics, both have lived virtually all their professional lives outside their homeland in Hamburg, Germany then La La Land, California. Unlike Congressman Manny Pacquiao, they do not simply go abroad to ply their trade and then return home. Nevertheless, the WSJ op-ed pages recently ran a rather fawning feature on Klitschko the Elder as a champion of freedom and free markets (hey, would you expect anything else given the source?)
Yet Mr. Klitschko stands out among the opposition, and not just because of his breathtaking physical size. He's the one new face in a crowd of familiar political mediocrities. He has a Ph.D. in physical sciences, hence his nickname, Dr. Ironfist. His considerable fortune earned from boxing reassures people about the sincerity of his commitment to fight corruption and resist temptation...

He has broken out in the polls, leading Mr. Yanukovych in a head-to-head match, which may come sooner than the presidential election due in early 2015. The government fears him enough that earlier this fall it fiddled with the residency requirement for the presidency, patently to stop him, since he had trained and lived in Germany for most of the previous decade. Mr. Klitschko says the retroactive legal change won't hold up in court, but in another context notes that the judges are in Mr. Yanukovych's pocket.

"In these hard days, the moral support from friends of democracy is very important," says Mr. Klitschko. While the nationalists in Maidan [Square--protest site] play up Russian meddling, he is always careful to insist that the fight isn't so much about personalities or geopolitics as about values—democracy, human rights, the rule of law. In short, Europe.
It's all very anti-Russian if that's your sort of thing and imagine the Iron Curtain still hangs across Eastern Europe. As the proprietor of the IPE Zone, however, I am more interested in how these two pugilistic politicians regard trade. As I mentioned before, Manny Pacquiao sponsored the passage of trade exemptions for Philippine textile exports to the US that would have likely violated WTO strictures [1, 2]. Meanwhile, Klitschko is championing a preferential trade agreement with the EU. It's not necessarily trade-positive--trade diversion and all that--but the sentiment is there. Who wins in this respect? I'd say Klitschko by a technical knock-out since the Philippine congressman's proposed deal never made it off the ground.

At any rate, we'll probably have more time to learn about both fighters' views on trade since Vitali Klitschko now suggests he will run for the presidency in 2015. Pacquiao meanwhile has long set his sights on the Philippines' highest office.

On education grounds, I prefer the guy with the PhD, but I'm stuck being in the country with the high school dropout.