Tom Service in The Guardian brings us the news that "the beast from the East", Nikolai Valuev, 7'2" heavyweight boxing champ who's gearing up for his big David & Goliath fight with David Haye tonight, "is classical music's only known aficionado in the boxing world."
I haven't had my second cup of coffee yet, but I note: a) I am surprised and b) I'm wondering why it is so necessary to be surprised. Why should it be so amazing that a visually terrifying hulk of a bloke should, in his spare time, like good music and literature? Why on earth shouldn't he? Third, I notice that he is, of course, Russian. We can't be certain that he would have espoused different tastes if he was British, but it would have surprised me a great deal more. Traditionally Russians value classical music and take it seriously. It's something to love and be proud of. Unlike...but we've been over that before. (I thought I spotted oligarch Oleg Deripaska at a concert of Russian music in the RFH about week ago, but maybe he has a double.)
Incidentally, my father was a neuropathologist and on several occasions had to examine the brains of dead boxers. He declared that the sport should be banned, so shocked was he by the horrific damage it had inflicted on these individuals (often well before their deaths). Where's the health & safety executive amid all the excitement about tonight?
"Ochin priatna, Nikolai" - pleased to meet you. Still wouldn't like to bump into you on a dark night.
Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.
- Chronicling The Crash: A Standpoint Ebook
- Grounds for Hope
- Is Islam a Peaceful Religion? Daniel Johnson at the Oxford Union
- Standpoint's Autumn Salons
- Win Tickets to the Inaugural Standpoint Salon
- Is Hunter's History Bunk?
- Lawson Collects on Climate Change Bet
- The Cabinet meeting that kept Salman Rushdie alive
- Russia's Win-Win Election
- The Kremlin Plays Old Tricks With Pussy Riot
- A Pyrrhic Victory for Georgian Democracy
- Abandoned in Moscow
- Standpoint's New Facebook Page
- No need to pander to the Bear, Mr Obama
- Standpoint Recommends: The Tacitus Lecture 2012
- Goodbye, Vienna
- Friends Indeed — Daniel Johnson on Gertrude Himmelfarb
- New Culture Forum Lecture: Jeremy Hunt
- Kangaroo Courts Arrive Down Under
- The BBC's painful novelties
- Money can't buy you love - Nichi Hodgson
- World Youth Day Diary: Day Four
- World Youth Day Diary: Day Three
- World Youth Day Diary: Day Two
- World Youth Day Diary: Day One
- Breivik and Anti-Muslim Bigotry