Baby Champs rocks in the heart of Jozi

Bongani Magasela

Bongani Magasela

Business came to a standstill in the Carlton Centre in Johannesburg on Saturday when thousands of people crammed the building during the first leg of Boxing SA's Baby Champs development programme.

Boxing SA staged 16 bouts featuring mostly beginners in the professional ranks. They came from most corners of the country, hoping this would be their stepping stone to big time boxing.

They all gave a good account of themselves, showing great potential.

Some of the defeats could be due to stage fright.

Members of the public, who got in for free, showed great appreciation by cheering and screaming their lungs out throughout the tournament.

Amateur female fighters refused to be left out. They paved way for their male counterparts whose aim is to follow in the footsteps of glorified young fighters such as the sensational Bongani Mwelase, Ludumo Galada, Zukisani Kwayiba, Marcel Japhta, and Desmond Samuels, who were discovered through the programme.

Mwelase and Galada hold SA welterweight and featherweight titles, Kwayiba is the WBC international mini flyweight champion while Japhta holds the Gauteng featherweight title.

Samuels, 20, from Cape Town, caused shivers in April when, after only four fights, he drew with the vasty experienced Edward Mpofu, a former SA junior featherweight champion, over six rounds. Experts thought Samuels should have been given the nod.

The Baby Champs programme started in 2005, and it has been spread all over the country, allowing disregarded trainers to produce champions.

This majestic four-round programme caters for debutants and those fighters with less then five bouts. It is driven by Loyiso Mtya, Boxing SA's director of operations.

Mtya said they had wanted to stage 36 bouts on Saturday but had to abandon 20 of them due to poor lights.

"We will continue this weekend and hopefully the Carlton Centre will again be our home because it is a perfect venue in the drive to expose our boxers to the public," he said.