They say politics is a full-contact sport. They say the gloves come off at times. They say candidates come out swinging. They say some blows are below the belt. They say a candidate is down for the count, limping toward the closing bell.
Usually, they don't mean it literally.
But according to a report in The Salt Lake Tribune late Monday, Mitt Romney is actually going to lace up his gloves. The former Republican presidential contender is signed on to do his first—and probably last—real fight. He'll get into a ring with Evander Holyfield on May 15 in Salt Lake City, for a boxing bout at a fundraiser to benefit Charity Vision. It's a nonprofit founded by a friend of his that provides medical equipment to poor areas around the world.
So what is the Vanilla Thrilla doing to prepare? "It will either be a very short fight, or I will be knocked unconscious," Romney told the Tribune, pulling no punches about his abilities. "It won't be much of a fight. We'll both suit up and get in the ring and spar around a little bit."
Who knows what Holyfield thinks about boxing a novice 17 years his elder, though it's not hard to imagine there are plenty of Democrats who would jump at the chance to take a few shots at Romney. (Maybe some top Dem donors will cough up the $25,000 to $250,000 to attend.) Even at 52, Holyfield can land a hard blow, and having seen Romney dance "Gangnam Style," I don't have a great deal of faith in his footwork.
As for Romney, he never seemed to have much taste for the more pugilistic aspects of politics, engaging in them only in ways that seemed a bit forced—remember "severely conservative"?—and perhaps he could have used some tips of writing a good zinger from Muhammad Ali. On the other hand, he did manage to deploy a perfect rope-a-dope strategy during the 2012 GOP primary, allowing a series of heavyweights like Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and "Sugar Ray" Santorum to exhaust themselves before he marched to the nomination. Maybe it's unwise to count him out quite so quickly.
In any case, this sort of daffy, self-deprecating humor is just the sort of thing that Romney's friends and family kept insisting he had, but that he never managed to display on the trail. More of it came through in the 2014 documentary Mitt.
There will be an undercard, but while the Tribune doesn't make clear whether Romney-Holyfield is the headline matchup, it's hard to imagine other bouts being more hotly anticipated.
Strangely enough, The Atlantic's September 2012 cover image, accompanying a story by James Fallows called "Slugfest," depicted Romney and Barack Obama as boxers, landing fierce blows on one another. Was that was an inspiration to Romney as he considered what to do for his post-politics life? We'd certainly enjoy believing so.