By Andrew Bonani Kamanga
The inaugural Southern African Boxing Convention was held in Johannesburg, South Africa on May 24-25, 2018. The organisation of this convention was indeed long overdue considering the huge potential of the sport in the region.
The event brought together boxing authorities from most of Southern and Central Africa to discuss the way forward for professional boxing in the region.
Addressing the delegates, the Chairman of Boxing South Africa, Dr Malefetsane Peter Ngatane, said: “We must stand up and be counted if we want to make an impact on the world boxing scene. We must set new standards instead of following what is already there.”
This statement by Dr Ngatane sums up everything that must be done to help professional boxing in Southern Africa to make that quantum leap forward.
Of course, realistically, it is important to acknowledge that the change that many boxers and their followers want will not take place overnight.
However, it is important to take the first steps in overhauling the structures and the programs that have been in place for the last 30-40 years.
Most importantly, there is a need for organised world-class professional boxing tournaments that bring together the best that Southern Africa, and the continent, has to offer.
It is difficult at the moment to organise the whole of Africa. However, when Southern Africa takes the lead, it will be the hotbed of professional boxing attracting fighters from other parts of the continent.
In that regard, there is a need for serious discussions with sponsors and television broadcasters to have meaningful relationships, which will support a professional boxing set-up that is similar to what is pertaining in North America and Asia.
The much-maligned betting companies should also be brought on board in order to have them as stakeholders rather than have a situation where the illegal betting syndicates and organised crime are controlling what is happening in the sport.
The Southern Times Africa Sport Forum has always insisted that African professional boxers fight for peanuts.
This will continue to be the rallying cry for Southern African boxers to make a decent living and generate wealth through the sport.
African boxers should not pummel each other for a few dollars whilst in North America and Europe, just stepping into the ring makes millions for the boxers, who in most cases, are not as talented as the African boxers.
There must be a way of overcoming this marginalisation of African boxers. If the African boxers cannot get lucrative fights in North America, Europe and Asia, then the relevant authorities must create their own right here on the continent.
Recently, Anthony Joshua, the British boxer was offered £36 million by American Deontay Wilder’s backers to fight in the United States.
The fact that there no Africans ranked highly on the lists of the most international boxing authorities is not a reflection of the lack of talent on the part of the Africans but is a serious illustration of the marginalisation and bias on the part of the international boxing authorities.
Rather than cry foul, about the way things are in international boxing, getting more organised is the only option. As the popular saying goes, “Do not agonize, get organised!” It is not viable to create different international boxing authorities.
However, great organisation of tournaments and lucrative purse monies will attract professional boxers from other parts of the world to come to Africa. It is entirely possible to have African champions challenging the likes of Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Tyson Fury and many other recognized and wealthy professional boxers from various parts of the world.
Africans cannot cry foul when they are hopelessly disorganised. It does not make any sense and gives the impression that Africans want to be given lucrative events and titles on a silver platter.
Africans, just like any other professional boxers and organisations should fight for what they need. It is not going to be given to them.
The rest of the world is not going to slow down to enable Africans to catch up. Professional boxing should be utilised to drive and promote sports tourism to Southern Africa.
The region has a 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 a need for organizers of bouts in Southern Africa to develop good working relationships not only with local broadcasters but with the American, European and Asian TV networks who are the prime sources of patronage and most importantly, revenue, in professional boxing, worldwide.
We wait with bated breath to see what Dr Ngatane and his colleagues in Southern Africa are going to do in terms of re-organizing professional boxing in the region. We wish them all the goodwill and good luck in their work!