He gave up martial arts because of his mother.
Many twentieth-century art stars were interested in boxing: David Bowie was a fan of Muhammad Ali, Jean-Michel Basquiat drew boxers, Elvis Presley played a fighter in a film, and Andy Warhol created advertisements for Everlast, a boxing equipment brand. However, Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury not only loved boxing, but also practiced it. The rock musician, who was against violence in adulthood, was involved in bloody fights in school, from which he was rescued by his friends.
Mercury got into boxing in India when he was at school and was even considered talented. But Freddie’s mum was against the blood sport – she didn’t think her son should get punched in the face. And she was right: the gifted boy left boxing and grew into a rock star, doing what he loved for the rest of his life.
Mercury took up boxing while at school in India. Freddie was regarded as capable, and in the ring he was perpetually bloodied – due to his protruding front teeth
Bomi and Jer Bulsara, parents of the future rock star, lived in India. They later moved to Zanzibar, where the head of the family got a new job. And on September 5, 1946 the family had a baby boy who was called Faroukh. In the future, the world would know him as Freddie Mercury.
In 1954, when he was 8, his parents sent him to St. Peter’s Boarding School in India. The family decided to part with their son to give him the good education that was lacking in Zanzibar. It was difficult for his peers at school to remember the name Faroukh, so they called his mate Freddie – in a more British way.
Freddie was very shy and lonely at school, and children used to bully him because of his badly protruding teeth. The boy saved himself in the arts and sports: he loved music and painting, and was involved in numerous sections. India had gained independence from Britain only a few years earlier and the influence of the empire was still strong. So Freddie’s hobbies were typically British – rock music and boxing, in which he even won the school cup.
“Faroukh was very lonely. He was only happy playing the piano or doing art school. But he was also a good sportsman – hockey, athletics, boxing,” recalled classmate Victory Rana – one of the members of The Hectics, the band in which Freddie played in his school days.
Despite his shyness, Mercury showed courage and resilience in the ring. Freddie was seriously into boxing, and he was even considered a talent. But Freddie had a problem in the fights: when he boxed, he quickly found himself bleeding from his protruding teeth, which he smashed his lips on.
Mercury is believed to have had four extra teeth in his jaw, which altered its structure and messed up his bite. In his youth, Freddie was embarrassed about it and covered his mouth with his hand when he laughed. But later it became a thing for the singer, and he even thought the protruding front teeth helped him sing, broadening his vocal range.
But Mercury’s teeth got in the way in boxing, and school mates remember bloody fights in which Freddie fought and never gave up.
“I remember a boxing bout where Freddie was just beaten in the ring. We shouted at him to give up. But no. Freddie fought the whole fight to the end with his face completely smashed in. He was very stubborn,” said Bruce Murray, a classmate of Freddie’s who put The Hectics together.
Freddie himself once said: “I hated cricket and long-distance running, I was completely useless at both. But I could run, I was good at hockey, and I was just great in the boxing ring”.
When Freddie’s mother found out about her son’s hobby, she banned him from fighting. The woman was against the blood sport and didn’t want her son getting punched in the face. Mercury gave up boxing, became the school’s table-tennis champion, and a year later won a prize for academic achievement. But later he lost interest in school, and music became his greatest passion.
At Queen, Mercury wore iconic adidas boxers. Freddie no longer boxed – but he did get into a fight with a bass player at his last gig
Many people remember Mercury’s image not just for the posh moustache, white T-shirt and glasses, but also for his shoes. The Samba is the second most popular sneaker in the history of adidas after Stan Smith. They have become so popular that they have been sold in 35 million pairs. The sneakers are still in demand and often appear in movies, for example, as worn by Shia LaBeouf in Transformers.
One of the first people to wear these sneakers on stage was Mercury (later on, Metallica’s James Hetfield was a fan of tall white trainers). In Mercury’s time, Samba’s were considered boxers: tall, lightweight and with a very thin sole. On Queen’s last tour, three people wore these boxers – only bassist John Deacon declined.
Contrary to the belief that Queen had a deal with adidas, the band didn’t get a penny for their publicity: fans are still searching eBay for rare Mercury-inspired Samba clogs. And although Freddie used to smash his opponents’ faces in the ring in boxers, he was against violence in adulthood. Mercury didn’t box, and once interrupted a concert to stop a fight in the crowd.
The Magic Tour was Queen’s last tour, taking in 26 European cities in 1986, and was a triumph. It was Mercury’s last appearance on stage with the band. It was also one of the last for John Deacon, the bass player, who had been drinking heavily on tour and after one performance threw his guitar into the amps.
During the Magic Tour, it was obvious that Mercury was physically unable to perform any further. The band was still composing songs, but the members knew that this was the beginning of the end. Nerves were on edge during the tour, and it even came to a fight between the musicians.
Mercury and the rest of the band got on well with each other. Many suffered from depression: Freddie because of his terrible HIV diagnosis and deteriorating health, and Deacon and others because of problems in their family life. A fight between musicians before a concert in Madrid was so violent that the locker room was vandalized.
And 5 years later, Freddie Mercury died – all those years he was not performing, but recording songs. At the age of 45, he died at his home in London of bronchopneumonia developed in the face of HIV.