6 January 2013

Zambia: Esther, Catherine Need Each Other


SOMETIME last year, I received a call from Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC's) Dennis Ilukena who wanted to seek my views about what he termed rumours going round about who was a better boxer between multi-division titlist Esther Phiri and rising star of female boxing Catherine Phiri.

Ilukena wanted my views aired on ZNBC's Radio Newsreel programme. I told Dennis then that I would have difficulties comparing the two fighting icons on account that, first, they were in two different weight categories (Esther is a light welterweight at least for now, while Catherine is a bantamweight).

By way of emphasis, I cited a comparison between legendary Muhammad Ali, a former heavyweight champion and current World Boxing Council welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. Both were icons in their respective weight divisions.

I further explained that, in my view, both Esther and Catherine are great fighters in their own right, even though Esther has more belts under her shoulders than her budding compatriot who is only 20 years old, but has the potential to scale Esther's heights if not surpass her with efficient and proper management by her handlers.

For some reason, my views were not aired on the ZNBC programme when I tuned in to gauge the coverage, but was not bothered about the 'blackout', but quite satisfied that I'd made my views known to at least one person--the interviewer, Ilukena.

I'm prompted to return to Ilukena's topic following a story I read this past week. As 2012 came to a close, Esther was quoted by the Post as saying, though she was currently inactive (her last fight was last February when she successfully defended her Women International Boxing Organisation and Women International Boxing Association unification titles against loud-mouthed Zimbabwean challenger Monalisa Sibanda), she was up to speed with what was happening on the boxing scene.

"...people are now comparing me with Catherine. I have heard even her (Catherine) saying 'I'm better than Esther because I throw accurate punches' but she's too young and we are not even in the same category. So, she should stop talking like that," Esther said.

I read newspapers, but I must have missed the story where Catherine was blowing her own trumpet about her pedigree. However, this is neither here nor there now. What's important is that when one gets into the limelight as a boxing icon or any other star for that matter, comparisons by fans, promoters and the general public are inevitable.

It's quite natural for people to start comparing Esther with Catherine, first, because they are both females who have distinguished themselves well in their chosen sport, even though they belong to different weight classes. I think people can express an opinion, even though it may not be informed.

I think, however, it may be inappropriate for Catherine to start praising herself (if indeed she did) as being better than Esther, even if she were, or any other female boxer for that matter, unless the two were of the same weight category and were possibly preparing to face off in the ring.

In which case, boasting about one's skills and abilities is very much in order for commercial purposes- fight promotion.

This column would discourage this rivalry from spilling into the media between two of this country's finest female fighters to date.

I would urge both Catherine and Esther to look at each other as equals and to root for each other, to support each other in any way possible as they prepare for their respective fights in the New Year.

They should realize that they can draw upon each others' attributes. The two need each other.

I think there should always be mutual respect, inspiration and motivation between both Esther and Catherine because they have brought pride and joy to Zambia through the works of their blessed fistic hands.

Crossing over into the New Year is always a blessing and I hope for Esther and Catherine, 2013 brings with it new beginnings.

Even belatedly, I wish readers of this column happiness, joy, peace and prosperity in this brand new year.

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