Boxing Snippets

10 questions with bullish Berman

RODNEYIt’s been a busy time. Thanks for the opportunity to get the low-down on the boxing scene.

I’m sure local boxing is feeling the squeeze of the economy, especially with our currency in freefall. How do you see it?
“The pressures are enormous. Despite that, Golden Gloves is determined not to compromise on entertainment value and the level of fights. We have to be innovative and appeal to different sponsors, among other things. Thankfully there’s an international market for guys like Hekkie Budler. We have to maintain the level, which [broadcast partner] SuperSport is entitled to.”

Talking of freefall, what is going on with Tommy Oosthuizen?
“Tommy is one of boxing’s tragedies. After all this, he can’t come back – not with Golden Gloves. No-one will touch him internationally.”

You have put a lot of focus on prospects lately, with good reward, it seems. Tell us more.
“Apart from the fact that many of them can really fight, it’s terrific to see their following. Take someone like Joshua Studdard. It’s very gratifying because one of the most exciting fights Golden Gloves ever promoted featured his late uncle, Kangaroo Adams, against Bruce McIntyre. Kangaroo was great. We want to bring boxing back, not to a lost society, but a vibrant one. Studdard shows all the signs of being a star.  I also like Ronald Malindi, the bantamweight, and of course there’s DeeJay Kriel, who keeps getting better. Our focus will be on these youngsters.”

What is happening with the much-awaited rematch between Kevin Lerena and Johnny Muller?
“That’s a good question. We’ve just changed the date to April 24 following the success of Sunday’s prospects’ tournament. My friend and colleague Jeff Ellis does a tremendous job of putting the shows together, and Sunday went beyond expectations. The focus will again be on the youngsters, but the show will be elevated by Muller against Lerena as the main event. It’s a rematch with a lot of needle. It’s also taken on an important dimension given our tie-in with Art Pelullo and ESPN.
“We’ll also be doing a Golden Ringside, with tickets on sale for R500 for VIP guests. This is something we did years ago with the late Maurice Toweel. Sales will be limited with VIPs getting first-class treatment.”box and dine best photo

There has been much talk about a potential unification fight for Hekkie Budler – can you fill us in?
“The tragedy for Hekkie is that he might be denied his greatness because he has no standout rival to measure himself against. We’ve tried . . . none of the other champions is interested. I’ve also spoken to Peter Nelson of HBO. He’s reluctant to buy a strawweight fight for HBO. But I’ll be seeing him at Paul Kamanga’s fight in Las Vegas. We’ll talk again. A unification fight, which would be affordable in Las Vegas, might swing him. But I must convince one of the rival boxers, who are terrified to leave their backyards.”

What is your relationship like with partners Emperors Palace and SuperSport?
It’s simple: big-time boxing cannot survive without casino and television backing. I regard SuperSport as a partnership. Golden Gloves couldn’t have got to where we are without SuperSport. It’s the same with Emperors, which remains an outstanding venue. It’s a proper triumvirate, which I treasure.”

You’ve been in the game a long time, almost 40 years. How do you stay motivated?
“The ring girls!
“It’s true, I have more grey hair, but my mind is the same and my body feels great. I’m always searching for new mountains to climb. After Lennox Lewis-Hasim Rahman [in 2001] I wondered what to do next. But there are always new challenges, some of which you create for yourself. Now, I’d love to take a Paul Kamanga or a Joshua Studdard to the top.”Lewis vs Rahman011

Any news on Monte Carlo and what may be coming up?
“We’re looking at doing something towards year’s end. It’s an ongoing relationship. But it would be premature to even speculate – you can’t sign fights in February for a show in October in November.”

You’ve established some strong alliances overseas, haven’t you?
“Yes, it’s very important. I have high regard for Art Pelullo, a promoter with integrity. Paul Kamanga will feature on his big Las Vegas card. Down the line he may do some work with Kevin Lerena and a number of others. I also have a terrific relationship with the Sauerlands. Ryno Liebenberg is fighting on one of their European cards any day now and we’ve also chatted about the possibility of Lerena fighting for the WBA Youth belt, regardless of the result against Johnny. They have a youngster, Micki Nielsen, who is 20-0, so that’s something we might do here or in Europe.
“I realise how difficult the environment is for local fighters to make their way, so we might look at doing a Lusanda Komanisi fight, for example. We won’t necessarily work exclusively with Golden Gloves fighters if it means giving SuperSport top quality action.”

_JBG9349 N Squared
Xolani Ndongeni, right, against Mzonke Fana.

One of the most popular boxers in your stable is Xolisani Ndongeni. He’s not following the traditional path to the top, is he?
“Yes, he’s a Golden Gloves boxer, but still in the nurturing phase, despite being IBO champion. I have a good relationship with East London promoter Andile Sidinile of Sijuta Promotions. Nomeva works very well as a top attraction in East London, where they love him, so I’m happy to have him fight under Andile’s banner. For now it’s a plan that is working exceptionally well.”

Related Articles

Back to top button