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Though his greatest triumph was in the defeat of the British Empire, which outweighed him considerably, it is
little known that the Mahatma, as he was known, had a successful career as a light-flyweight boxer. His nickname
for one thing (Great Soul) is not designed to inspire fear, unlike Hit Man or Razor but Mohandas, his real name,
was seemingly a doughty battler with an impressive record in pugilism.
“He had a wiry strength which many underestimated,” said respected commentator, Reg Knuckles, “and pound
for pound he was reckoned to be one of the hardest hitters in the world. Not bad for a vegetarian.”
Gandhi’s record of 10 wins, three defeats and 12 draws in a 25 fight career may not seem impressive by some
standards, but Knuckles knows the reason behind it. “As a pacifist he didn’t have the killer instinct. He could
knock an opponent about for round after round, but he
just didn’t have the heart to punch him hard enough to
put him away. He could have finished any one of his
12 draws with a left hook, but chose not to.”
Others have commented on Gandhi’s lightness of foot
in the ring and it is thought that Muhammad Ali
borrowed the Ali shuffle from him.
“When he took up politics it was a great loss to the
noble art,” continued Knuckles, “If he’d continued with
his career he could have been one of the greats. He
would have become India’s first global sportsman after
independence. He had the charisma to make the
lighter weights just as popular with the public as the
heavies. Of course, he had this marvellous gift for
publicity, but can you imagine how much coverage he’d have got from his salt march if he’d done it as part of
his training for a world title challenge. The World Champion at that time was Stringy Hobart, an Englishman,
and I’m sure the whole world would have tuned in to see the Mahatma give him a pasting in the name of freedom
and independence. He could have done it too, he had everything, the speed, the variety of punches and an iron
jaw like the Himalayas. It’s said that an elephant kicked him in the chin once and it broke its foot. Gandi adopted
it and kept it as a pet. That’s the kind of guy Gandhi was.”
Pic by Ben Sutherland