As the boxing year swings into sharp focus, prominent promoters Golden Gloves and African Ring have expressed grave concerns over the limited options available to young local fighters.
While their equivalents overseas can expect to fight up to six times a year, there are South African protégés who fight as little as once a year. It doesn’t take a boxing scholar to realise that far from developing a boxer, such a schedule can only see talent whither on the vine.
Golden Gloves has a number of young guns on its books – Lerato Dlamini, Rowan Campbell and JayJay Sonjica come readily to mind – but even they struggle to build their records in a market that offers few opportunities.
It’s one thing to be an ambitious pro fighter, quite another to put food on the table. Many top SA boxers, never mind young aspirants, struggle to do so.
“We try and give all our boxers regular work, but sometimes it can be like juggling mercury,” said Rodney Berman, who works in partnership with Jeff Ellis’ African Ring to keep his roster busy.
This way, prospects like Azinga Fuzile, Chris Thompson, Michael Markram and Wade Groth can expect decent action with hot prospect Anthony Grobler waiting in the wings to do so.
Sikho Noqothole, Sive Nontshinga, Mark Farah, Roarke Knapp, Fernando Rodrigues and Ayanda Nkosi rank among the best from elsewhere, but they, too, will feel the cold chill unless there’s a sudden upswing in action among promoters.
In simple terms, there are too many boxers and not enough tournaments to feature them on, especially with SABC having all but given up on broadcasting local boxing in recent years. What was once a flood has become a famine.
The challenge for promoters is to ensure a balance between drawcards (established fighters) and up-and-comers on tournament cards. Development shows have their place, but it’s a hard sell to television and sponsors.
What’s more, with few exceptions young SA boxers have no idea of the need to entertain. Punchers stand out and unless you have the skills of a Pernell Whitaker or Floyd Mayweather, you are simply part of the mainstream.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that top amateurs are either not signing for their pro licences or good prospects are walking away from the game after just a handful of fights, chastened by the battle to earn decent cash.
“We’ll continue to do what we can, but it’s not easy,” said Ellis, who added that the East London stables are less active than ever with many of the region’s fighters relocating to Gauteng.
It’s clearly an issue Boxing SA must get to grips with. BSA must create an environment that is vibrant and fiercely competitive, ensuring that the best talent flourishes. Failure to do so will be catastrophic.