Anthony Joshua, Wladimir Klitschko – return of exciting heavyweight boxing

By Andrew Bonani Kamanga

HEAVYWEIGHT boxing is the real deal. It is this weight category that has captivated sport lovers over the past century.

Other weight categories are, of course important but however when there are really two talented heavyweights, the atmosphere of anticipation and excitement is indeed doubled.

Watching legends such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar de la Hoya, Marvin Hagler, Roy Jones Jr, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao provides explosive and wonderful action but the biggest attractions over the years, have been Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Corrie Sanders.

The advent of Anthony Joshua has rattled the cage. His impeding heavyweight clash with the experienced and seasoned Klitschko is a tantalizing prospect. Hopefully, the fight will live up to its billing.

The reason why almost every sports fan is aware of this forthcoming heavyweight clash is because of the big money involved, which extends to the marketing hype and build-up to the event.

However, knowing boxing as we do, all the excitement and furore can all end in the first round, leaving fans feeling short-changed and cheated.

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

Even professional boxing bouts for women are becoming increasingly popular. In this connection, 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.

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

Even the title fights that are held mostly in South Africa and broadcasted by the Supersport Television Channel do not command the same hype as those in North America, Asia and Europe.

Put simply, Africans fight for peanuts! Now considering the inherent health risks in the sport of professional boxing, the various professional boxing and sport authorities of the region should be fighting for African boxers to get the same respect and treatment by the promoters and international sanctioning bodies.

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.

Obviously, something is wrong with the African professional boxing set-up. It warrants a paradigm shift.

It needs innovative sports marketers and leaders to diagnose the reasons for the sorry state of the sport. 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 organization which brings 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 materialize if the various national professional boxing organizations, 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 South 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.

The region has potentially excellent venues in the form of Victoria Falls, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Okavango, Maputo, Luanda and Blantyre.

If the legendary “Rumble in the Jungle” could be organized 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.

Southern Africa has had exciting boxers before such as Corrie Sanders, Proud “Kilimanjaro” Chinembiri, Anderson Size, Dingaan Thobela and Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala.

These professional boxers, some of whom have now passed on, never got the support services and rewards they deserved.

The professional boxing circuit in Southern Africa can be exciting if it is well organized, well televised and there is sound investment going into the industry.

Southern African Boxers should not be beggars and paupers on retirement. Food for thought for the sporting authorities!

April 2017
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