Boxing Snippets

Berman runs the rule over 2018 and takes a run at the new year

You signed off the year with an outstanding show on Saturday. Congratulations. What were your other highlights of the past year?
‘It must be all the young talent coming through. Having said that, fighters like Thulani Mbenge have proven they can be a force and Kevin Lerena continues to astound me. I’m not saying Kevin beats them all, but he can compete with anyone in the cruiserweight division. Thabiso Mchunu has also come back nicely, so he and Kevin are nicely on the scene. It was also encouraging to see a war horse like Walter Dlamini winning a national title.
‘I’ve also taken great pride in the success of our young trainers, guys like Colin Nathan, the Smith brothers, Anton Gilmore, Alan Toweel and Vusi Mtolo. Our boxers flourish off the hard work of these trainers.’

And your lowlights?
‘I must say that Tommy Oosthuizen has been a real disappointment. I don’t know where he goes now. He was given a life line, which he blew. But the low point is really his, not Golden Gloves’. Happily, there were few lowlights.’

Ricardo Malajika, right, ranks among local boxing’s best prospects. Pic: Nick Lourens

As you alluded to, your stable looks pretty hot going into the new year.
‘Yes, it’s probably as good as it’s ever been, certainly in the last 10-15 years. There’s Jabulani Makhense, Ricardo Malajika, Keaton Gomes, Boyd Allen and now Roarke Knapp.’

It’s been a wild time for world boxing with the media landscape changing so quickly – what is your take?
‘Yes, it’s evolving at great speed, something the youngsters understand better than me. HBO was the pinnacle for 45 years, and then it was suddenly overtaken. The press used to be our lifeblood, but it’s now all social media and streaming. It’s like wild fire, but we’re happy to go with it.’

Berman gives Ring magazine champion Hekkie Budler props as SA’s No 1 boxer.

Who is your SA boxer of the year?
‘It must be Hekkie Budler, whose achievements are outstanding. Apart from his boxing ability, he’s a great credit to his sport. His demeanour is excellent.’

The incomparable Alexander Usyk, Berman’s pick for world boxer of the year.

And internationally?
‘There can only be one – Alexander Usyk, who is a marvellous fighter.’

You recently opened a satellite office in New York. What does this mean?
‘My main rationale is to leverage SA boxers through the American connections I have. One way is to get South African boxers – not only champions – onto American undercards. I’m friends with Lou Di Bella, who looks after Deontay Wilder, so there may be an opportunity down the line on a Wilder undercard, that sort of thing. And of course, another step will be to put on smaller tournaments ourselves, getting in on our terms.’

You’ve been in the business 40-plus years. How do you keep going?
‘I feel like a teenager. My inspiration is Bob Arum, who just turned 87, and Don King, guys who still sign fighters and get excited about boxing. The truth is, I’m still having fun and am probably fitter than I was 20 years ago. As long as there are mountains to climb, this is what I’ll be doing, even though it’s so tough in our economy. No matter, though, I’ll never let standards slide.’

What are your hopes for 2019?
‘I’d love for Mbenge and Lerena to become household names on the world scene. Domestically, I hope boxing continues to thrive.’

Thulani Mbenge in action last weekend. Pic: N-SQUARED

Thank you. Enjoy the festive season.

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