Amateur boxing won’t pack a punch

2012-11-11 10:00
Mawande Mvumvu
Clubs have become almost completely dysfunctional

Gone are the days of boxing’s amateur ranks producing boxers destined to go all the way and achieve big things at the professional level.

Think Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Lennox Lewis and many others who are among the many boxing greats who launched their careers at amateur level.

Here at home we had our own former world champions, such as Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala, who was a product of the Dube boxing club, an amateur gym in Soweto.

In recent years these once-proud amateur boxing clubs, which regularly produced warriors, have become almost completely dysfunctional.

Legendary boxing administrator Stanley Sono believes the standard of amateur boxing has now reached its lowest ebb.

“These days, anyone can decide to turn professional at any time, but because of an improper foundation they eventually lose a series of fights against well-developed foreign opponents. That forces many of them to quit,” Sono says.

He says the problem started when amateur structures such as district, provincial and national structures, which boxers could progress through before turning professional, were disbanded.

According to Sono, the ban on boxing in schools has also contributed to the demise and ineffectiveness of unpaid boxing.

Sono, the recipient of the Order of Ikhamanga in 2008, said: “When the new government came in, the structure of amateur boxing was changed and boxing at school level was abolished.”

Experienced boxing administrator Dr Peter Ngatane, who has chaired Boxing SA on several occasions and is currently a board member, concurred with Sono.

“Amateur boxing continues to decline, not only in South Africa but throughout the world, and all this because of changing rules and regulations.”

He added that it makes no sense to have different rules and regulations between amateur and professional boxing.

Ngatane blames the amateur boxing global body, the International Boxing Association, for “messing up
the sport”.

“How can they expect a boxer to succeed as a professional when it is a completely different ball game compared with amateur boxing?”

Sono added: “Today we have facilities that were only a wish during our days, but those facilities are not being utilised.”

On the troubled local custodians of amateur boxing, the SA National Boxing Organisation (Sanabo), Sono said: “You cannot have Sanabo up there with ineffective provincial structures and expect to see results.”

Sanabo has been engulfed by squabbles with its mother body, the SA Sports Confederation and Olympics Committee (Sascoc) over poor performance, with only two boxers qualifying for the London Olympics.

Both failed to win a medal.

The Sanabo Championships that were scheduled to take place early in October were also cancelled at the eleventh hour.

Sanabo will not vote at the November 24 Sascoc elections as they are “not in good standing” with Sascoc.

The 76-year-old Sono said it saddened him to see the sport he loves crumbling down, but “I have made my contribution. The current generation has to take over and history will judge them”.

Sono and Ngatane agreed that until special attention was invested in grooming talent from the foundation level, the same sad story will continue.

Ngatane said one of the main objectives of the Gauteng Veterans’ Boxing Association, which he chairs, is to revive boxing in townships.

He also said that South Africa needed tried and tested amateur trainers.

“It’s impossible to have a failed boxer, who was knocked out more than he can remember, suddenly producing champions. There needs to be a detailed and strict requirement for amateur coaching hopefuls,” concluded Ngatane.

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