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Saturday, May 6, 2023

Miroslav Kapuler Advances to Round of 16

Israeli light middleweight Miroslav Kapuler Ishchenko advances to the round of 16 in the 2023 IBA Men's Amateur World Championships with a walk-over victory over Youcef Islam Yaiche of Algeria. Yaiche refused to fight against an opponent from Israel, so Kapuler advances.

Athletes from different countries and backgrounds will of course have political disagreements. Those athletes have every right to voice those opinions. They should be encouraged to use their platform to speak out for what they believe in. There is nothing wrong with the idea of protest in sports. But the refusal to compete against Israeli athletes by those in certain countries is antithetical to the idea that sport can bring people together.

Hopefully these athletes will soon change course. Competition can dissolve disagreement and help those with different backgrounds gain respect for one another. Sports can break down barriers. But only when it's allowed to happen.

Refusing to participate in a sport because an athlete disagrees politically with an opponent is, frankly, nonsensical. It's a cop out. Fighting an Israeli doesn't mean Yaiche suddenly agrees with the politics of the government of Israel. It doesn't even mean he has to acknowledge the existence of the country. The truth is, Yaiche knew he would lose to Kapuler, so he quit before the fight.  And that is true of all athletes who refuse to fight Israeli opponents. They fear losing to an athlete that belongs to a country considered a political enemy.

Kapuler's next fight is against Aslanbek Shymbergenov, a 29 year old from Kazakhstan, on May 9. Shymbergenov is the number four seed in the light middleweight tournament and has been fighting at the senior level since 2012. Kapuler is 3-0 as a pro and a fellow southpaw. The winner will be one step away from the medal round.

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