Towards transformative leadership in sports

Following the scintillating and pulsating display of the art and act of boxing by the WBC heavyweight champion, Deontay Wilder, and Tyson Fury in the dramatic comeback of the latter, a statesman in British and world boxing, and the conqueror of the ‘Hades’ of addiction and depression, on December 1, 2018, in LA, United States, fans and sports analysts of certain stock and disposition are everywhere with the question: who is the best, and who is Number One in the heavyweight division?

Such questions, nay, judgement, or confusion, is usually a resultant figment consequent upon some kind of impressionism – a function, largely in the subjective domain, that momentarily sprouts and feeds on some form of emotionalism of certain propaganda, nostalgia and inhibitions, whereby we, like some kind of infantile subscribers and shallow panegyric commentators,  are caught in the web of easily preferring and choosing the present and prevailing situation, without taking a holistic consideration with the lenses of realism of everything surrounding the suprasystem, from the historical, developmental, systemic and overall character and potentiality points of view or general perspective.

Many a fan, many a commentator, many an analyst have come to the unsustainable conclusion that Fury is the best. Others, a little more generous, claim Wilder and Fury share the pedestal of the best, while the seemingly more considerate, the seemingly more generous, opine that no one can claim to be Number One in the heavyweight division, just because of one impressive fight where nothing was won, and nothing was lost, where the defending champion exhibited strength without corresponding skill, and the challenger exhibited skill without corresponding strength. Apparently, there are no more yardsticks to measure levels of accomplishment and successes.

Make no mistake about it, Anthony Joshua, by every reasonable and accepted standard, remains Number One. There is one thing that defines a winner in sports. There is one thing that is the goal of every sportsman in the world. That one thing is the trophy. No matter how great your efforts are, no matter how commended you are, you would never consider yourself truly successful, fulfilled, celebrated, and supremely inspiring, if there is no crown on your head at the end of the toil. The trophy is more than a consolation. It is more than a universal compliment or commendation. It is the solemn and sounding celebration. It is the status confirmation, the ‘serial of sceptre calibration’.

The heavyweight division is generally defined by five belts, five crowns, five trophies, five ‘sceptres’: the WBA, the WBO, the WBC, the IBF, then the IBO, thereby making it a possibility for five men or less to rule the division concurrently for a time, season or seasons. These belts are not given as charity to contenders. They are not just for grabs by opportunistic scavengers in the division. Since the history of boxing, we know these belts are seriously contended for, they belts are bloodily fought for; these belts are proudly died for.

To undermine whoever holds the belt or belts at any given time is to undermine the honour of the sporting world in boxing.

To describe the champion who has the belt with contempt and derision is to undermine and castrate the process leading to the championship. To declare that the holder of these belts picked them from the gutters is to insinuate, nay, proclaim, in no uncertain terms, that the rules by which he got them are rules from the gutters; that the boxing authorities, which approved the crowning of the champions, came from the gutters and carried out the administration and supervision from the gutters. It is indeed a statement that does not really affect the image and status of the holder of these belts, inasmuch as it expressly and effectively disparages, in the estimation of critically-minded, analytical and right-thinking people, the boxing authorities that make the rules, impose sanctions and execute and enforce discipline. This goes against the tenet of transformative leadership that underscores proper understanding of what is, and what is required.

To criticise the holder of a certificate, and describe him or her as one not worthy of the certificate, when he or she has neither faltered nor failed to deliver anytime he/she is called upon to deliver or act on account of the certificates he/she is holding, is to effectively say that the examination body that awarded him or her the certificate has a problem, and made a mistake.

To this end, therefore, I would say, without the slightest dint of equivocation that any insinuation or aspersion on Anthony Joshua as an unworthy King of the Heavyweights, with four belts so far, is a great disservice to hard work, discipline, ethics, global citizenship ideals, and transformative/transformational leadership in sports development in general, by Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, and any other victim of impressionistic and negative judgement.

To insinuate or directly describe the former IBF heavyweight champion, Charles Martin, the former WBO heavyweight champion, Joseph Parker, and, the celebrated Wladimir Klitschko, over whom Anthony Joshua triumphed at different times, as unworthy and undeserving opponents, is too pedestrian, amounts to playing to the gallery and the height of disrespect and hypocrisy. It is the enthronement of impressionistic sentiment over reality. These individuals were champions in their own rights. And they had to be beaten by a better man to lose and surrender their belts. They once, legitimately, had the sceptre of the ring around and on them.

The question is: ‘If Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury were the one who had dethroned Charles Martin to clinch the IBF, and Joseph Parker to capture the WBO, would they and their promoters have styled it a weak, unworthy victory, undeserving in honour and respect? Again, if today either Wilder or Fury dethrones Anthony Joshua, and strips him four-fold, would such victory not be highly celebrated as a hard-won and honour-deserving victory? Would it be described as victory got from the gutters, or an inconsequential triumph over a push-over, thereby undermining the great and inspirational effort of the eventual victor and triumphant ‘Lord and Master of the Ring’?

Let us consider the fact that the true champion is an inspirational model of a change agent. That is what transformative/transformational leadership is all about. And I daresay that sports authorities in general should embrace and promote transformational leadership in sports development to catch up with emerging issues in globalisation in terms of conduct and decorum. Sports in general is the totality of man’s personality. It must be inspirational enough and by that, accord dignity and respect to the deserving, until the ‘gauntlet’ is lost.

Interactions and verbal banter should take into consideration cultural realities and show respect to others. A boxer who hails from a social environment where they insult people’s mothers or fathers, without any sensitivity, and, therefore, goes ahead to disrespect his opponent by using such universally-considered uncouth language, and at the same time expects the world to tolerate him because of his background, without him being respectfully sensitive of the cultural realities of others, is 50 years behind civilisation. He is shamelessly ignorant and unpardonably unenlightened and does not care about others’ cultures. That goes against transformative/transformational leadership and global citizenship ideals.

Anthony Joshua is very appreciably more sensitive, considerate, and ethical than such verbally-unrefined gladiators whose names cannot be printed here. He is also more professional than Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, in inspirational credentials beyond the ring. Tyson Fury is a very intelligent and clever sportsman. But he has no respect for another. He  believes in sports discipline, personal discipline and temperance. Sometimes he is constrained to respond in certain ways.

An inspirational sports legend, a champion, an embodiment of sportsmanship, is one with the ability to exhibit restraint, respect, and temperance. Of all the attention-commanding heavyweights today, Anthony Joshua, the amiable, personable boxing king, is number one. Every perceptive and objective observer would be one with me on this. This trait is not mediocrity, it is not timidity; it is temperance, discipline, sportsmanship; it is transformative/transformational leadership trait in sports development. A denial of this fact is a gross exhibition of ignorance and lack of the will to recognise the importance and necessity of genuine globalisation, and towards global citizenship ideals in every aspect of human endeavour and relationship, especially in the organised ones.

In pursuit of transformational leadership in sports development as it is in other areas of legitimate human endeavour globally, the overriding quest should be to create a change in construct and conduct, and inspire towards pursuit of higher goals for the greater good. The inspirational personality of a true boxing champion does not start and end in the dexterous acrobatics, fistical gymnastics, and pugilistic pyrotechnics in the ring. The totality of the inspirational personality of a champion towards transformational leadership should be unmistakably and proudly defined by his or her total conduct and character consistent with his or her status as champion, national and global citizen, model, and leader. This is further defined by his utterances, language, perception and appreciation of people: his or her colleagues, rivals, superiors, subordinates, and compatriots. No one is undermined, derided, scorned, or controversially profiled.

Again, a true champion is not given to losing concentration.

• Onyedi could be reached on: +2347060760601.

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