Resolves problems facing boxing

Bongani Magasela

Local professional boxing emerged last year drenched in the candy-coated rhetoric of behind the-scenes controversies and soaked in the heady aroma of a bittersweet victory.

Add to that potent cocktail the plethora of outstanding successes and one can surmise that boxing in South Africa is alive and well.

At first glance it seemed as if it was swimming against the tide in a sea of hopelessness.

In essence there were several different challenges that had to be resolved simultaneously.

That was after the suspension of general manager and acting CEO, Krish Naidoo.

Loyiso Mtya, a man with a pedigree for the noble art of boxing, stepped in and took the sport by the scruff of the neck.

His first biggest assignment was on February 3 during South Africa's ground-breaking first professional women's boxing at Emperors Palace.

That was when Laila Ali stopped Gwendolyn O'Neill in 46 seconds of the first round.

The fight that was attended by Nelson Mandela, thanks to the astuteness of promoter Rodney Berman, whose Golden Gloves empire staged that historic fight.

However, Mtya made mistakes which I believe were genuine errors for a PRO who was tasked with a bigger and more demanding job of running the office, which had junior general administrators with little or no knowledge of running boxing at all.

Also, some experienced boxing personalities within the board of Boxing South Africa were expected to help sail their sinking ship out of the quagmire.

But their response to the crisis gave an impression that they were scared. The office needed a senior person to keep the sport going because a condition of Naidoo's suspension was not to interfere with the smooth flow of boxing.

Mtya became everything - acting CEO, sanctioning fights and rating boxers. In the process he stumbled. Sowetan told the stories and he hated us for it.

Chairman Dali Mpofu almost fought with his colleagues for sticking his neck out by making sure that Bongani Khumalo got the job of CEO.

Mpofu's colleagues were somehow concerned that Khumalo's illness confined him to a wheelchair. But he took over on June 1.

I take my hat off for Mpofu's conviction. Clearly he knew Khumalo's capabilities.

I don't want to mention all the wonderful things that Khumalo did in a short space of time because I may be accused of being a praise singer.

I opt to remind you that Mpofu smiled from ear to ear when Khumalo announced that the Auditor General had given Boxing SA an unqualified audit report for its sixth yearly report -- something that had never happened before.

"This is a milestone for Boxing SA," said a delighted Mpofu.

That clean bill of financial health enabled Khumalo to appoint staff members on a full-time basis. That included Mtya and Gugu Nyembe, who had been on a three-month contract.

Khumalo made sure that crownless champions in the 2006 Baby Champs competition received their belts. His achievements earned him the nickname "Mr Fix-It".

Generally, he successfully restored the lost pride and tarnished dignity of boxing - hence Knock Out Promotions made a comeback - they had been on a two-year fed up leave.

The hard work by Khumalo and his team also resulted in the revival of boxing in forgotten areas like the Free State, whose government, under the broad- minded former MEC for sport Ace Magashule offered not only to sponsor the Baby Champs finals on January 11 but also to host them, the yearly awards as well as the two-day convention.

About 60 tournaments were staged throughout the country but only a single genuine world champion was produced and that is Mzonke Fana, who won the IBF belt from Malcom Klassen in April. That was staged by promoter Branco Milenkovic.

Good luck to Milenkovic's charges Vus'Umuzi Malinga and Ali Funeka who will fight for WBC elimination fights this year. No one will forget Milenkovic's fight - a fiercely contested blow out between seasoned campaigner Lucky Lewele and novice Bongani Mwelase.

The latter emerged victorious, but the real winner was boxing because their high performance had the country talking positively about the sport.

I declare that Boxing SA has crossed the Rubicon and broken the back of problems facing our beloved sport.

I take my leave.