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Heavyweight boxing

French boxer hailed as a hero after raining punches on riot police during violent Paris clashes

  • Man identified in video as Christophe Dettinger, a former French light heavyweight champion
  • Boxer faces jail time for punching policeman to the ground during anti-government demonstrations
PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2019, 4:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2019, 11:08pm

A former French champion boxer has turned himself in to authorities after being caught on camera raining down punches on riot police who were clashing with yellow vest activists over the weekend in Paris.

Christophe Dettinger, a 37-year-old former French light heavyweight champion, can be seen on the video landing shots at shielded riot police in Paris during violent scenes in the demonstration.

Police tried to prevent yellow vest protesters from crossing the Leopold-Sedar-Senghor bridge and it is understood that Dettinger, who racked up an impressive 18-4-1, 7 KOs professional record, jumped in to protect a woman on the eighth weekend of violent anti-government demonstrations in the French capital. It is understood that he is now in police custody.

In the video, which has since gone viral, Dettinger, who is wearing a black hat, gloves and coat is throwing punches at riot police and can be heard telling police that they should be “ashamed” of themselves after the demonstration got out of hand.

France’s President Macron condemns ‘extreme violence’ after latest yellow vest protest

In another video, Dettinger can be seen kicking a policeman on the ground. The French police union was dismayed by Dettinger’s action and tweeted: “Sir, you who punch a colleague on the ground, you have been identified. For a boxer, you do not respect a lot of rules. We will teach you those of the penal code.”

Dettinger, who became France’s light heavyweight champion in October 2007, has been identified by police and could face years in prison according to investigating sources.

The 1.93m tall Dettinger, who is nicknamed the “Gypsy of Massy”, was caught up in the violent protests that saw cars torched and up to 50,000 protesters taking to the street, which has become a common occurrence in France in recent weeks.

Dettinger did not wear a mask during the attack and can be seen adjusting his dark blue beanie cap, as worn by Sylvester Stallone in his Rocky and Creed movies, in the videos.

Leader of France’s anti-government ‘yellow vests’ arrested

French interior minister Christophe Castaner later described the violent attack as “cowardly and intolerable” and tweeted that he contacted the public prosecutor to open an investigation into the incident, according to the French media. Castaner later tweeted Dettinger “will have to answer for his actions in court”.

Dettinger’s former coach, Jacky Trompesauce, defended his boxer, saying Dettinger was not looking for trouble and his actions were “out of character”.

“He’s a very humble guy who would only get into a fight when things [fight] get unfair,” the coach said of the boxer, who retired from the ring in 2013.

Many on social media took a different view of the incident, labelling the boxer as a hero of the populist movement, which is protesting against the policies of French president Emmanuel Macron.

“Hero boxer ! Guide the nation and defend our root and history. There will be Christian Europe or NO Europe at all. The Decision moment just came,” wrote one Twitter user gregPL.

Macron denounced the “extreme violence” of some clashes that erupted at the Paris march.

These new protests follow Macron’s government announcing on Friday that it would harden its stance against the yellow vests.

For the past two months, the yellow vests” or gilets jaunes have been blocking roads, occupying highway tollbooths and organising weekly, sometimes violent, marches in Paris. Driving the movement is the feeling among French workers and lower-middle class that they cannot make ends meet, and anger at Macron’s reforms seen as favouring the rich.