SA boxing a bit rocky

JOHANNESBURG, 21 April 2016 – South Africa's boxing space is not only suffering a shortage of boxers, but also a need for skilled trainers in such a precise sport. Video: eNCA

JOHANNESBURG - South African boxing took off in the nineties, with names like Brian Mitchell, Dingaan Thobela and Baby Jake Matlala in the ring.

Yet now this precise sport seems to be struggling.

Experts say a serious cash injection, and more importantly young boxers are urgently needed.

Many aspiring South African boxers cannot afford the gear or the training and many never even get to see the inside of a ring.

In contrast, boxing is a billion dollar industry in the US.

Cruiserweight boxer Johnny Muller says the sport needs to become big business here too and that young boxers need assistance to get them to climb through the ranks.

"There’s no one supporting them and helping them. I think the government and everyone should jump in and help. It’s expensive to box ... some of the guys don’t reach their full potential because they can’t afford it."

SA Cruiserweight champion Kevin Lerena says there's not only a shortage of boxers, but also a need for skilled trainers.

"You know if a trainer is not in it for the money and they in it for the passion, to nurture and to groom a boxer - that’s all a fighter needs."

South Africa hasn't produced an amateur Olympic boxing champion in more than two decades. Former pro boxers Peter Smith and Harold Volbrecht are desperate for structure at amateur level so as to produce more professional boxers.

"Our development has to start start from amateurs," says trainer Peter Smith. "We have to get guys in to Olympic contention; even to qualify is a great thing."

"If we can pick up the amateur boxing, the professional boxers would become better at this stage. It looks like we running out of boxing," says trainer Harold Volbrecht.

Volbrecht described how, many years ago, if there were three to four fights on a bill, any one of them could be a main fight.

"Today you struggle to get a main fight and that's why I take my hat off to Kevin and to Johnny - both these guys are the only two draw cards in the country today."

While millions have been pledged to develop the sport, the onus now weighs heavily on the SA National Boxing Organisation to bring back the punch.

* Watch the full video report by Shahied Joseph in the gallery above.



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