12 January 2013

Zambia: Amateur Boxing Future Bright

IN concluding last week's piece in this column titled 'Esther, Catherine need each other', I said "Crossing over into the new year is always a blessing and I hope for Esther (Phiri) and Catherine (Phiri), 2013 brings with it new beginnings."

How prophetic the first line in today's piece has turned out! Not for Catherine or Esther, but for the Zambia Amateur Boxing Federation (ZABF), which, in what appeared to be an exclusive to this newspaper, has reportedly embarked on an ambitious programme to recruit former boxers to help revamp the sport at amateur level.

A report by Shamaoma Musonda titled "ZABF seeks retired boxers'services" must truly be the kind of news any retiree should cherish given that in real life, rarely is this group of people seen as useful for anything after its best-before-date expires, including boxing activities. At least in Zambia.

And yet, former boxers on the international scene find life outside the square ring and make life-long contributions by identifying, tapping into and nurturing the latent talent found in young boxers who should be the bedrock for the future of the sport.

Oscar De La Hoya, a superstar in his prime, runs Golden Boy Promotions, along with the former "Executioner" Benard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Miguel Cotto, though not yet retired, are into boxing promotions and own state-of-art gyms for budding boxers. It's obvious that when they retire, they will continue with their missions.

Here at home, Anthony "The Preacherman" Mwamba has been highly successful after hanging up his gloves to train and manage icon and multi-division titlist Esther.

So, the news that some 40 retired boxers some of whom may be bedfellows with the streets will be recruited to help out with the technical aspects of the sport, especially coaching where boxing has a dearth of skilled coaches to tutor amateurs, is not only progressive news, but it's very inspiring news, coming as it has, at the beginning of a brand new year.

But thanks must go to the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) which is beginning to resist the usual by evolving an amateur boxing strategy whose ultimate goal is to multiply the numbers of amateurs who are going to stay longer in this category and possibly start earning a living!

I don't know what the amateurs will be called when they start earning, (pro-am, I suppose) because currently, only professional boxers are in the paid ranks.

The idea of paying amateurs is, of course, a brilliant one as a motivation factor to the aspiring professionals.

I do not have the full details of the mechanics of how this whole payment system will be handled, but a plus under the system will certainly be the longer stay of boxers in the unpaid ranks.

There's always been an argument about some professional boxers not having much amateur experience, a factor that explains their inability to win major titles when they join the paid ranks.

Some of the greatest world champions today fought 100 or more fights, losing some and then turned pro. Amateur boxing sort of 'hardens or toughens' boxers and prepares them for harder battles in the upper ranks.

The late Lottie Mwale, Mike Chilambe, Chisanda "Kent Green" Mutti, Charm "Shuffle"Chiteule, John Sichula, among others, had credible amateur experience before turning pro.

ZABF president Thomas Chileshe was quoted as saying AIBA had directed his executive to scan the crop of yester-year's pugilists and pick 40 of them in readiness for training to be conducted by an international expert who would be sent to Zambia.

I trust that Dan Chiteule who has been assigned the task of recruiting the former boxers to be turned into coaches will be objective, and not do a hash job, but take his time, without wasting it, so that he does not leave out any candidates worthy of this exciting development in Zambian boxing.

Surely, the likes of Chilambe, Evans Chisenga, Morgan Mphande and Thomson 'Townboy' Miti, to name a few, have that vast reservoir of experience upon which our upcoming fighters can draw.

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