Boxing in crisis: Where’s the ambition?

By Andrew Bonani Kamanga

PROFESSIONAL Boxing in Southern Africa is threatening to get out of its long self-imposed slumber.

Charles Manyuchi of Zimbabwe, the World Boxing Council (WBC) welterweight champion, did a demolition job on Augustin Julio Feria from Colombia, knocking the poor guy in two minutes 42 seconds in a WBC sanctioned non-title fight.

Manyuchi, 26, just like all Southern African boxers, has got great potential but he needs the big fights.

He needs the money spinners and for that there is need for enhanced synergy and collaboration with US and European promoters and event managers.

It is downright criminal to expect talented Southern African boxers to continue fighting for peanuts.

When one considers the fact that the last fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao grossed over US$400 million in revenue, one can realise the gulf in organisation and status between professional boxing in North America, Western Europe and the rest of the world.

It is indeed disheartening to note that Southern African professional boxers are not getting the big fights that can enable them to earn decent money in the sport.

Despite the various criticisms levelled against it and sometimes great controversy, professional boxing, especially in the heavyweight category, continues to have a strong alluring factor.

Even clowns like Tyson Fury have caused temporary excitement before relinquishing his IBF and WBC heavyweight titles.

I absolutely have got no doubt that Southern African boxers like, Gerrie Coetzee, Corrie Sanders, Proud “Kilimanjaro” Chinembiri and Anderson Size, in their heyday, would have knocked the daylights out of Tyson Fury.

There is no doubt that Southern Africa has got a huge reservoir of world class boxing talent. However, the region’s boxers are not really making any significant impact internationally.

They are seldom part of main attractions at the widely marketed   and  televised international title bouts in Europe, Asia and North America.

The boxers’ ambition and commitment is not being matched by that of the administrators of the sport throughout Southern Africa.

This implies that African boxers are not commanding the huge purse monies that are paid to world stars such as the retired Lennox Lewis, the  Klitschko brothers, Vitaly and Wladmir, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather and Shane Moseley.

Professional boxing should be utilized to drive and promote sports tourism to Southern Africa.

The region has wonderful climate. It is relatively peaceful, politically and economically stable compared to other parts of the world.

However, the region and its boxers are not being aggressively marketed on the world stage to bring the much-needed revenues to Southern Africa.

Southern African professional boxing needs innovative sports marketers and leaders to diagnose the reasons for the sorry state of the sport. After that speedy remedial action is required.

The conventional business models are no longer applicable.  Unfortunately, the era of “business as usual” is gone.

There is need to engage regional and international sponsors as well as sanctioning bodies to totally overhaul the African professional boxing industry. Furthermore, there is need for organisers of bouts in Southern Africa to develop good working relationships with the American, European and Asian TV networks who are the prime sources of patronage and most importantly, revenue, in professional boxing.

Southern Africa is endowed with so many places of interest, tourist resort centres and facilities whose fortunes could be practically and literally transformed through professional boxing.

It also provides SuperSport, as the dominant TV Service provider and host broadcaster for practically any part of Southern Africa, with good business opportunities of transforming professional boxing into a lucrative pursuit for everyone involved in the industry.

There is also need for establishment of an organisation which brings to together Southern African professional boxing promoters to exchange ideas, information and experiences of how the sport can be taken to a higher level than it is now.  Even a Southern African professional boxing circuit or series held in various countries is a distinct possibility.

This can only materialise if the various national professional boxing organisations, national and regional tourism authorities as well as corporate sponsors come together in a consultative forum to strategize and determine the way forward.

It goes without saying that Southern African professional boxing authorities, marketers, promoters, trainers and of course, Supersport also need to think outside the box.

They need to go beyond their “splendid isolation” mentality whereby every big fight is taking place in Gauteng or Eastern Cape.

It might be initially expensive but there is greater value and long term benefits in cultivating markets through staging of regional and international bouts at various venues throughout Southern Africa.

There is need for a professional boxing series for Southern Africa with excellent possible venues in the form of Gaborone, Victoria Falls, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Okavango, Maputo, Luanda and Blantyre.

If the legendary “Rumble in the Jungle” could be organised in   Zaire (DRC) in the early 1970s, what is really stopping the professional boxing authorities now?

The time for bold decisions is now. Hopefully, we will, in our lifetime, get to witness reputable challengers emerging from Southern Africa, going head to head as well as pound for pound with likes of the Klitschko brothers, Amir Khan, Manny Pacquiao, Carl Froch and Anthony Joshua.

It is certainly provides good entertainment for many folks. I also hope and pray that the economic planners and gurus at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) also think of modern multi-purpose arenas for sport when they talk of infrastructural development for the region. The wonderful new University of Botswana multi-purpose indoor sports hall is one such facility.

As the Chinese proverb correctly states, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first few steps.” Professional Boxing in Southern Africa has to move forward.