Soda Popinski, 57, the Russian heavyweight who boxed his way to fame on the Punch-Out!! circuit in the late 1980s and early '90s, passed away this weekend due to complications from liver disease.
"He will be missed," said a statement from Little Mac, the diminutive boxer who waged dozens, possibly even hundreds, of epic battles against Popinski over the years. "Even though he would always laugh at me before each round, he respected the sport and kept himself in shape, as evidenced by his very slim waist. When fighting him, I was always sure to keep my guard up, just as my trainer suggested."
Mac, forever classy, failed to address a very open secret about Popinski in his statement, however a fact that those close to Popinski say directly resulted in his passing.
"Soda Popinski was an alcoholic," said Bald Bull, another top heavyweight of the time. "The biggest drunk I've every known. We knew it, everyone at home knew it. He wasn't drinking Sprite out of that bottle, you know? It was cheap vodka."
But boxers from Bald Bull to Don Flamenco to King Hippo say those who ran Punch-Out!! attempted to cover up the truth about Popinski because they feared his alcoholism would hurt the circuit's marketability.
"That is understandable. But they also should have gotten him some help," yapped King Hippo, through an interpreter. "Instead they sold him as this soda-swilling boxer and even gave him that ridiculous stage name."
Popinski was born Drinksi Vodkanyev, but he legally changed his name to Soda Popinski in the mid-'90s after Mike Tyson left Punch-Out!!!
"He wanted to be the biggest star in boxing," said Great Tiger. "But his addiction to drinking never let him achieve his true potential. I don't think there was one time I fought him without him throwing up on me. The only way I could get rid of the smell was to disappear."