29 December 2012

Zambia: 2012 Boxing World Review

ON the local scene, the year was marked by continued wrangles in the Zambia Amateur Boxing Federation (ZABF) which appeared to have died down as the year came to a close, while there was little action in the ring due to the perennial sponsorship hurdles which worry me and, I believe, the authorities and other stakeholders involved with the sport.

The ZABF wrangles were akin to a sinking Titanic until sport minister Chishimba Kambwili stepped in and appointed National Sports Council of Zambia board member and now deputy chairperson veteran administrator Mwamba Kalenga to find a lasting solution.

The issues revolved around the former executive of ZABF president Stephen Simpemba about eligibility of presidential candidates who doubled as amateur and professional boxing participants and or promoters which has since been rested following the controversial February elective annual general meeting which ushered in Thomas Chileshe.

Chileshe had been a thorn in the flesh of the Midlands Amateur Boxing Association (MABA) which out rightly rejected his election and, thereby, his leadership of ZABF accusing him of having used fake clubs to garner more votes than Chris Malunga, his fiercest rival who had been tipped to win a fair election.

The NSCZ itself an almost moribund organization, stepped in and desperately tried to prevail over MABA to change its stance on Chileshe and recognize his leadership, but to no avail.

NSCZ upheld the banning by Chileshe of three MABA officials Godfrey Mwape, Thomas Chililo and John Bwalya for alleged indiscipline and to assert himself.

As the drama continued to unfold, this column urged Kambwili to quickly step in and play the role of a mediator in these unending wrangles which, as the minister himself correctly observed, were no good for anyone, the individuals concerned, the fans, the ministry, other stakeholders and the sport at large.

But it was not altogether a year of gloom and doom as seven -division titlist Esther Phiri successfully defended her Women International Boxing Organisation (WIBO) and Women International Boxing Association (WIBA) unification titles against loud-mouthed Zimbabwean challenger Monalisa Sibanda, as did Francis 'Galagata' Zulu of his Zambia heavyweight title in a farcical scrappy contest against promising novice Ngándu Biselele.

United Nations Secretary general Ban Ki Moon was even considering appointing Esther as a UN goodwill ambassador.

But talk of town was the rising star of female boxing Catherine Phiri, 5-0, 1 KO, who joined the "Baddest" man on the planet former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson to be the youngest champion at age 20 when she was crowned World Professional Boxing Federation bantamweight world champion after beating tough Canadian Natalie Forget. Catherine is due to defend her title against Filipino Norj Guro on February 2 next year in Lusaka.

There was pretty good news from amateur boxing during the Zone Six Games where the Zambian squad of seven excelled, reaping six medals-three gold, two silver and bronze under the tutelage of Kennedy Kanyanta.

Kanyanta has now set his eyes on the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, noting that although his boxers had passed the first acid test, winning the coveted medals, more sweat lay ahead if they were to repeat their success at the forthcoming Games.

On the international scene, undefeated World Boxing Council welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr (43-0, 26 Kos) was released from prison after serving two months of a 90-day sentence for a domestic battery misdemeanor against Josie Harris, the mother of three of Mayweather's children, and threats to beat their sons in an argument about Harris dating another man.

And in a gruelling contest, Mayweather Jr defended his belt against Miguel Cotto. This fight was the sternest test for Mayweather (I had never seen him bleed in a fight before) who admitted at the post-fight interview that in all his life he had never met some one as tough as Cotto.

World Boxing Organisation (WBO) Manny Pacquiao staked and lost his title to undefeated Timothy "The Desert Storm" Bradley 29-0, (12 Kos) on a split points decision. In his last fight seven months earlier, Pacquiao escaped with a majority decision over rugged Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez, the man who proved to have the Philipines'number by brutally stopping him in six rounds in their fourth rubber match last December 10.

The Klitschko brothers -Vitali and Wladmir- continued to dominate the heavyweight division by defeating all their opponents, prolonging the debate about who will beat the two.

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