Aleksandras Baranovas / Boxing Culture in the Baltics
Punch one, which may be quite successful, punch two - not bad, third punch not as good and my boxing career is done just before it started! That’s how I imagine myself being part of a combat sport which already sparked a huge interest for many Lithuanians. In the past years, boxing had probably more sweaty myths and fictitious stories than actual enthusiasts taking part in it. But time has changed and today we see more and more people being hyped about boxing. I am curious if this sport has changed, or the attitude of Baltic people has altered. About cultural transitions and more I do have a talk with a boxer, trainer, Lithuanian boxing team member, child tutor… In short, a real boxing pioneer who helps others to wake up their inner warriors - Aleksandras Baranovas.
by MARIJA SINICAITE
As a person who never did boxing, I am curious what is the best experience or feeling that one could get from this sport?
For the ones that haven’t tried boxing, I would start introducing it while saying that boxing helps to become stronger both physically and mentally. You don’t necessarily fight with another person in a boxing ring which actually requires a lot of knowledge and skills in punching, coordination, self-defense etc. Boxing is a great tool to lose yourself in a sense of getting rid of bad emotions, as well as keep strengthening your body based on personal preferences, thus, this sport can be easily adapted to anyone’s physical condition.
Does it teach you anything?
It could teach persistence because in order to achieve success it is necessary to lose many times. Also - respect. It is an absolute must to respect your competitor - shake hands before and after the fight, not to use forbidden moves. It also gives you inner peace and concentration - you have to stay focused even if you miss a punch, the same as calm down and keep your head cool before starting the fight.
How did boxing appear in your life?
It all started 11 years ago when a 15 years old youngster used to be a member of an informal social group, a true football hooligan. In short, a street kid who liked to fight for himself. I wanted to sharpen my skills and become a cool one, a lot! Years passing I kept exercising and participating in competitions. My motivation and idea why I am doing this transferred into a self-realization. Because of boxing, I was and still am able to feel strong, follow and achieve my goals, feel free, explore, try, win and loose at the same time, mistake, be happy and sad. Boxing and sports, in general, became my life.
What amazes me the most about it - the fact that in the ring you are standing all alone. You are responsible for yourself and your actions both right and sometimes wrong ones, the same as you decide whether to fight to the fullest in real life. The ring is equivalent to my life and the other way around. Even though it might sound corny, it is of high importance to me.
Does only a small circle of people is interested in boxing or has it been already been discovered and widely spread in the Baltics?
Boxing as a sport is well known in this region for many years. We even have the Baltic championship, where I had the honor to compete in the finals in 2013. Olympic boxing is trendy all over the globe, no exception is the Baltic region and especially Lithuania. It is a type of boxing that has 3 rounds, each for 3 minutes in 10 different weight categories and boxers wear shoes and t-shirts. This type of sport is not very financially beneficial because people are participating here because of the Olympic idea, nice event, technically nice fight. Myself, I do Olympic boxing as well.
Professional Boxing is best developed in Latvia. This type has 3 to 12 rounds depending on the level of the fight and boxers’ strength. People do not wear t-shirts and there is always massive shows and press conferences before fights. I would say that Professional Boxing is more commercial in a sense that the main goal here is a nice knockout - it is all about amazing viewers and impressive show.
For many Lithuanians is boxing just a temporary trend or an honest interest?
All over the world there are so many boxing enthusiasts and especially in the West where this hype started in the 90s and doesn’t seem to stop. I would say that today we face a trend to exercise in general. People engage in more mentally demanding rather physically hard jobs for a living. Naturally, here comes an actually need to do sports. Boxing has an advantage because its intensity can be easily adapted to everyone. And that’s why I do believe that more people will discover boxing soon. I don’t think that one should stick to a specific type of sport though. To vary in between different sports that’s what sparks the true interest and keeps the excitement of discovering new things. Even boxing workout contain various exercises: sparring (free fighting, a form of exercising - editor’s note), punching focus mitts, skipping rope, jogging, swimming, yoga etc.
What cultural aspect about Lithuanians in this sport you could highlight?
I would say that Lithuanians are able to stay focused and do the job until the very end. There are so many challenges that need to be faced in this sport, especially if one is aiming at participating in a competition; and that actually applies to all types of sport. None of them is easy - in order to achieve something you need to work hard and a lot! The biggest struggle in boxing is the aspect of being alone in the ring. You are standing by yourself in front of your competitor and can not avoid the fight, also do not have time to miss your focus. Many boxers fight not because of the outer motivation, but because of their desire to win and be strong. Financially boxing is not a profitable sport and that’s why I see so many young people from the streets, that are trying to prove themselves something and are not losing their hands. People are trying to achieve things and that is the reason why boxing is popular in the countries from the Post-Soviet bloc, Mexico or locations where the living conditions are/were pretty tough.
Boxing and girls, does there some chemistry in between?
During boxing training girls usually do not do sparrings. They might, of course, if one aims to participate in fights and competitions but, again, they do that cautiously since the goal of this sport is not a harsh fight, but considerate play. Of course, most of the girls do boxing in order to stay fit. I am so happy to see either men, women or even kids punching training bags or focus mitts with a good music in a background. I love seeing these satisfied and laid-back faces after they finish exercising. So, as I already said, boxing is both for professionals and ordinary people that do sports for themselves, girls definitely included!
What is the funniest or strangest myth about boxing?
Well, there are lots of them. The most common would be that boxers are stupid as a result of hitting heads which is absolutely ridiculous. There is no way that box would punch out one's brains! Actually, in order to achieve Olympic or global success, a professional athlete suppose to be miscellaneous, intelligent and mentally strong. Personally, I think that strength only comes in the last one. This stereotype came from the times when the Soviet Union broke down and most of the issues were solved with wrists. Fit guys used to be taken to different violent groups where was no need for education in order to get money. I am glad that times have changed and I believe that these stereotypes soon will be all in the past.