Andrei Borzenko: The boxer who refused to die

Nowadays, good boxers win world titles topped with millions of euros. They fight twice a year. They are famous all over the world, uploading pictures of their glossy sports vehicles on social networks.

Andrei Borzenko din’t win any of the famous belts, but still remains forever in the history of boxing.

While defending his homeland, he was captured and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp. In his catacombs, he defeated SS officers and notable Nazi boxing champions. In the next few lines we will look at proven historical facts – most notably two of his famous victories.

Andrei was born in Tashkent in 1920. He was prepared under the expert guidance of legendary boxing trainer Sidney Jackson. The American moved to live in the East in 1916. Prior to the war, Borzenko became the heavyweight champion of Uzbekistan and twice won the title of Southern republics in the USSR. He was drafted into the Army in 1941. The Soviet war machine instantly sent him to the front, the World War II has began.

He was seriously wounded in the arm and leg. Borzenko lost consciousness and wa captured near Dnieper.

He fell into the Stalag concentration camp. After two escape attempts, he was sent to the notorious Buchenwald. A dark place whose stories freeze the blood of humanity even nowadays. It is boxing that helped Borzenko survive in a strictly hierarchical prison, where Soviet captives were a lower caste. Gladiator battles were organized in the catacombs for the joy of the Nazi eye. The bloodthirsty wardens loved watching the captives kill themselves for a morsel of bread. We will take a closer look at two of the memorable eighty victories of the Soviet soldier in the concentration camp.

Borzenko faced a former German boxing champion.

The man was over 100 pounds, lying in Buchenwald for beating and murders. An outlawed bandit from Hamburg, who knocked out all his opponents in underground matches. But so does Andrei. The bout was in the heavyweight and the winner had to pick up… a loaf of bread. First to the improvised ring came the German. His head was full of scars from illegal fighting. The Russian, apparently lighter than him. Everyone expected a quick knockout.

In the first moments, the guards began to bet on their countryman – a knockout seemed inevitable.

Borzenko tried to survive as he gathered strength for one of his favourite combinations. He masterfully avoided the German attack, but a blow at the beginning of the second round sent him to the ground. The referee decided to continue the match. Standing on his feet, the Soviet soldier struck powerful hits in the liver and jaw of the opponent. Few moments later, the rock crashed to the floor and the crowd exploded, impressed by the skills of the enemy soldier. Even the guards applauded. Andrei participated in several more matches, and almost everyone finished with a knockout. He shared the bread and soup he earned with his colleagues at the shed.

The best boxer in the SS ranks, named Willy, arrived in Buchenwald.

Willy was a heavyweight champion of the Third Reich. The Germans wanted to give a lesson to this Soviet prisoner, whose story was passed word of mouth in concentration camps and undermined their prestige. The match was considered a battle of the Nazis against the USSR – 6 rounds of 5 minutes each.

Willy was more active in the first rounds. In the second part, the two started exchanges, as the German began to take superiority. In the third round, he landed heavy blows to the Soviet captive – it was expected that each subsequent one would be the last. In the next, Willy started using elbows. The battle turned into a “life and death”.

Andrei continued to collect heavy blows to the head, but the referee did not interrupt the match, because he was enjoying the beating.

Borzenko fell unconscious for a moment after another elbow was thrown. As if force from above helped him to stand up. Andrei dealt a very heavy blow to his opponents jaw… the champion fell, he was knocked out. There was a burial silence. At that moment, the legend of Andrei from Buchenwald was born. A prisoner who defeated the most elite Nazi fighters of the SS. Within seconds, the assembled crowd dispersed. All the captives returned home frightened. To this day, it is a mystery why the Nazis didn’t kill Borzenko, who knocked out their champion.

Soon the Red Army released all the prisoners and shot German guards.

Andrei received proposals to go to the West, but returned to his family in Uzbekistan. He entered the medical institute and became a surgeon. For a long time, Andrei did not tell about his stories from the Buchenwald concentration camp. He chose to remain silent for the darkest period of his life. After Stalin’s death, however, he revealed what had happened to his mother, father, and sister. Prior to the collapse of the USSR, he received an award for his participation in the Great Patriotic War.

Everyone said he was a very kind and helpful person, who looked to help everyone. Andrei Borzenko died in 1992.

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