The State of Boxing - by Peter Leopeng
The sweet science seems to have lost not only its science but also its sweetness in South Africa and around the world.
The reason is there for everyone to see; pugilism is sliding away in America, the one Mecca of boxing.
If boxing dies in the USA, then it has no chance of surviving anywhere. As in the world economy, when America sneezes, the rest of the world catches cold; when USA takes off its gloves, the rest of the world hangs theirs.
I have lamented in the past that in heavyweight boxing, the world like in the olden days of searching for a white hope, is now desperate for a black hope. Gone are the days when the champion in any one of the sanctioning bodies would be an American, and out of the top contenders, at least fi ve would be black Americans.
Now even the Klitschko brothers are bored. They have recently been feeding on a menu of second rate minnows, and no longer bother to make the trans-Atlantic trips to the US to defend their titles there.
Even ring announcer Michael Buffer has to make the opposite trip to Europe to do his “Let’s get ready to rumble “thing whenever the Klitchko’s are fighting.
The decline of American boxing is obvious when none of their male boxers came away with a medal at the recent 2012 Olympics in London.
The amateur system is the feed-in for the professional ranks. So if that falters, you can be rest assured that there is going to be a dearth of boxers going forward into the professional ranks.
Think about it, what happens if Floyd Mayweather Jnr hangs up his gloves in the near future? Don’t be under any illusion the man is already 35 years old and fast approaching retirement.
A US boxer would win an Olympic gold medal and go on to win to win a world title four years later. Boxers like Muhammad Ali (1960), Joe Frazier (1964), George Foreman (1968), Sugar Ray Leonard (1976) and Oscar De La Hoya (1992) are some of the boxers who won Olympic gold and proceeded to become a world champion. Why even Evander Holyfi eld won a bronze medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and Roy Jones Jnr who won silver at the 1988 Seoul Olympics became great champions in the professional ranks.
So with no Americans emerging from this year’s Olympics, where is the next star attraction going to come from? I do not know if this is a concern to the US, but I sure hope it is and that something is done about it.
The world needs America to revive boxing simply because that is where the money is, casinos, big sponsorships, TV networks and simply the crowds.
Back in South Africa the situation seems even bleaker as there are no amateur structures in place and as with the US; this doesn’t augur well for the professional ranks.
South African managed to send two boxers to the London Olympics, Simphiwe Lusizi in the welterweight class and Ayabonga Sonjica in the bantamweight.
Like most of our previous Olympians since we were readmitted to the Olympic movement in 1992, both boxers were eliminated early
However, it should not be all doom and gloom. Some of our boxers, who were never offered an opportunity to represent South Africa at the Olympics, have gone on to put the country on the boxing map.
Peter Mathebula, Gerrie Coetzee, Brian Mitchell, Welcome Ncita, Vuyani Bungu, Baby Jake Matlala, Dingaan Thobela, Mbulelo Botile and a few others have gone on to win “world” titles.