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One Last Chance – Too Many - by Loyisa Mtja

The prolonged stay of Evander Hollyfield, the return of Tommy Hearns and a whole lot of other boxers including our own has once again reared the heads of anti-boxing extremists, both medical and moral about the dangers of the game. Identifying boxing as a sport is like deciding whether a tomato is fruit or vegetable. But two things that are certain are that it has a high quality of entertainment, which is why you always go back to watch it whether you want it banned or not, and that the health and welfare of the contestants is at risk.

It is for this reason that senior citizens run a greater risk of being hurt than younger men. Concerns have been voiced, questions have been asked and fears have been expressed about boxers whose career spans too long, especially those whose skills have deteriorated to a point where preparing for the fight itself is a risk to their health. It is a well known fact that the pounding boxers take in preparing for the fights is sometimes much more than the actual fight. Preparations for fights take about three months of which are dedicated to daily sparring sessions that totals anything between 100 to 200 rounds, this in preparation for just one fight. Boxing is about preparing the body for speed, concentration enhancement, quick recovery, endurance and ability to generate power.

Any good trainer will attest to the fact that the biggest challenge for the team is to get the boxer in the best condition without neutralizing any of the above. To get him there you have to punish that body. The line between training and straining is very thin when it comes to how much the body can take. There is a limit to what the body can take and it differs from body to body and age to age, not necessarily in this order. It is much easier for a younger man to pull and bruise those muscles with assurance of a quick recovery, while it differs with an older man who risks longtime or permanent injury. Some of the wear and tear comes just from preparing for the fight. He can no longer put pressure on the knees and shoulders without risking injury. The challenge now lies in how much pressure he can put on that body and again produce a tiptop performance.

Now, with the 2010 licensing underway, Boxing SA has yet again endured its own set of challenges from boxers who should be retired but keep on banging the door to be let in the ring for what they always phrase as “one last chance”. The applications range from boxers still young enough to be still actively engaged but have already suffered too much punishment for their own good, to those who are just too old.

As mulled over by the South African Boxing Act, 2001 section 7 (1) Boxing SA may issue certificates of registration to any person selected according to certain specifications to perform particular duties for which they have been registered for. BSA may also suspend, cancel or renew any certificate after having satisfied itself on the ability of the person to whom the certificate has been or must be issued to.

There are specified rules and regulations as well as special practices adopted to protect the rights and interests of the licensees against abuse from others, taking into account and conferring appropriate regards to their constitutional rights. But more often than not, the most urgent has been to protect them from themselves.

Where boxers are concerned, BSA has to make decisions based on the boxers ‘medical conditions and fight records. Doctors’ reports before and after fights are often relied on to give guidance.