The Herald (Harare)

26 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Lack of Sponsorship Kills Boxing

BOXING has been one of the sport that brought Zimbabwean athletes into the international spotlight especially soon after independence as the country produced renowned champions. Pugilists like Langton "Schoolboy" Tinago, Stix Macloud, Joseph "Kidd Power" Mutambisi, Beira Tar Baby, Proud "Kilimanjaro" Chinembiri, Ambrose Mlilo, Joe "Breaker" Makaza, Gilbert Josamu, Ndaba Dube, Arigoma Chiponda, Destroyer Bonyongo and Zvenyika Arifonso all came into stardom before the turn of the century.

But over the years, boxing's popularity has been going down as the discipline choked under a number of challenges.

The biggest setback has been lack of sponsorship for tournaments as promoters hardly organised meaningful events.

Bickering within the Zimbabwe National Boxing and Wresting Control Board did not help matters while the few people who remained in administration appeared to have run out of steam.

But this week, a glimmer of hope was given to the sport when Minister of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture, David Coltart, named a new board, replacing the previous one led by Richard Hondo.

Hondo's board had been in office for over 32 years and has now been replaced with a new committee led Paul Nenjerama.

Boxing promoters Lorraine Muringi and Farai Muchena have also been appointed to the new board.

Trainers Alex Kwangwari and Edgar Hammond were also ushered into office alongside journalist Gilbert Munetsi and sports administrators Charles Dzimba and Tsitsi Muzuva.

Coltart appointed the board with effect from February 1 and until January 2016.

However, its not looking all rosy for new board as they have to overcome a plethora of challenges in their bid to revive the sport as mandated by Coltart.

Chief among the challenges would be set up a proper secretariat and office structures were boxers, trainers and managers could easily access the relevant information.

The board could also, as starting point, consider making an inquiry into the bank accounts and assets, if any, that have been held by the previous board.

Another major challenge should also be in compiling a respected order of merit and ranking system so that the stakeholders are aware of which boxers hold a particular national title in a specific division.

At one time more than half of the divisions had no title holders while it's also important that the new board should consider taking stock of the active stakeholders like promoters, managers, trainers and boxers.

The newly appointed board also has a task of establishing close links with major international unions like International Boxing Federation, International Boxing Association, World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and Global Boxing Union so that local boxers are eligible to challenge for the titles.

Muringi was a vibrant promoter in the 1980s and could revive some of her links but a lot will also dwell on the new board engaging retired boxers like Shepherd Sauti, Freddy Sauti, Arigoma Chiponda, Smart Nkomo, Linos Murambwa, Matthew Makumire, Phillip Striker, Gibson Mapfumo, Livingtone Master, Ambrose Mlilo and Mosquito into the new system.

Former boxers could still play a huge part either as trainers, judges or referees while some could be deployed to centres at the grassroots to tap talent and at the same time encouraging women to take up the sport.

One of the bottlenecks that choked the previous board is a clause in the Boxing and Wrestling Control Act which prohibits the board from promoting fights other than just sanctioning bouts.

The board should be allowed to be pro-active and also set out a calendar of tournaments with various promoters while Zimbabwe could also gain if they engage boxers in the Diaspora like Derick Chisora and Peter Pambeni to chip with some help.

As they seek to rebrand the sport, the new board should help boxers get easy access to the square rings and training equipment.

Former middleweight champion, Modecai Dongo, yesterday expressed mixed feelings over the new board but remains hopeful of a better future for the sport.

"I am disappointed that the new board does not have a national outlook. To me this board is not properly constituted because it's heavily biased with people from Harare.

"It's also surprising that the Minister failed to harness both the amateur and professional boxers into a single committee. But we are willing to work with them and develop boxing," said Donga.

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