Just days after announcing that Finland lightweight Niko Puhakka would be fighting Artur Sowinski for the vacant lightweight title, Polish organisation KSW has pulled him from the bout.
The move was made after fan outcry over Puhakka’s tattoos and political leanings. He has a tattoo of the Nazi slogan 'Blood and Honour' on his chest; that phrase was the philosophy behind Nazi government laws against inter-racial marriages.
KSW released a statement to Fighters Only in which it expressly stated that Puhakka’s removal came after a negative response from fans around the world. Poland also suffered heavily under Nazi aggression and the country bears numerous scars from the World War Two era.
The statement reads:
In connection with controversy surrounding Niko Puhakka, KSW Federation decided to cancel his participation in the upcoming KSW 18 event scheduled for February 25th in Plock. The decision is associated with the respect our federation has for public opinion as well as the belief that personal views and ethical standards are equally important as sporting excitement.
KSW Federation never was and will never be an institution promoting any kind of political, religious or social beliefs. We are a sporting organization, which chooses its fighters solely on a basis of their athletic accomplishments. Our goal is to confront skills, records and names not fighter’s views.
However, the amount of negative feedback we received regarding the above- mentioned fighter forced us to exclude him from the competition. Niko Puhakka’s removal from the fight card does not mean that Artur Sowinski’s participation in KSW 18 will also be cancelled.
A replacement opponent for the Polish fighter will be announced soon
Oddly, Puhakka had fought for KSW on two previous occasions with no issues, the most recent being in March 2011. It seems either the thought of him fighting for a title in Poland proved unpalatable to fans, or the profile of the bout and associated publicity meant it was the first time his presence on a KSW card was widely noted.
It is not the first time that Puhakka has been ostracised as a result of his politics and while he is definitely a fighting talent, his career has no chances of progressing to any significant international level as long as he is wearing the slogans of the Third Reich.