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How professional boxing has evolved in Mzansi

The development of South African boxing spans four different epochs of improvement and finesse.

It is trite to argue that boxing is a resilient sport.

We are bold to say boxing developed in leaps and bounds even during the height of apartheid.

On the same wavelength, we will restate that some of the greatest fights in this country took place slap-bang in the face of apartheid.

Some of the classics included the fight between Arthur Mayisela and Harold Volbrecht, Romeo Anaya vs Arnold Taylor, Big John Tate vs Gerrie Coetzee and Jacob Morake vs Brian Mitchell.

It is worth mentioning that the decade 1980-1990 is pivotal in the annals of South African boxing.

It is always a useful benchmark in measuring the progress of boxing in the country in post-apartheid SA.

This decade produced excellent fighters who would later become the flowers of the golden age of South African boxing (1990-2015).

For 25 momentous years SA boxing held sway in international boxing.

This is a huge part of the history of South African boxing.

There are various stakeholders who played a part in this success.

Boxing authorities played a huge part in the putsch to have South African boxing recognised in the global boxing family after the demise of apartheid.

Board members of BSA, the regulatory body, criss-crossed the world and attended many boxing conventions, promoting South African boxing.

On the home front, BSA's symbiosis with the South African National Boxing Organisation (Sonabo), the amateur mother body, resulted in many star amateurs turning pro and consequently becoming world champions of note.

In collaboration with the national department of sport and recreation, boxing authorities lobbied the World Boxing Council (WBC) to hold its annual convention in SA in 1996.

To a greater or larger extent, the transition of professional boxing from strong-arm tactics of the past regime to the effervescent and democratic order of the day was brought about by men and women who were dedicated to boxing.

Some of them have gone the way of all flesh, while some of them are still alive and kicking.

The foot soldiers

In many ways, BSA could be viewed as the political vanguard of boxing in the new dispensation.

In the midst of the new ideas there existed a motley group of boxing promoters who grabbed the new opportunities with both hands - the benevolent Branco Milenkovic and others.

It is worth mentioning that at the top of this heap, there existed the Golden Gloves boxing outfit, spearheaded by astute lawyer Rodney Berman.

Thirty years later its steam engine has morphed into an international brand.

Berman took to the new dispensation like a duck to water.

He produced world champions by the dozen, including Vuyani "The Beast" Bungu, who remains the only local to defend his world title 13 times.

Berman catapulted SA boxing to dizzy heights and he staged mega-fights - the Lennox Lewis and Hasim Rahman world heavyweight title fight in Brakpan, Gauteng, springs to mind.

No one will forget the historic WBC super-middleweight championship Berman at Carnival City where a supposedly wilting Dingaan "Rose of Soweto" Thobela blossomed once more on September 1 - spring day - by dethroning Englishman Glen Catley in front of 5,000 thrilled fans in 2000.

Milenkovic staged the first real world female championship bout, the IBF welterweight clash between Noni Tenge and defending champion Daniella Smith from New Zealand, in 2011.

Tenge scribbled her name in the annals of African boxing history after winning that title.

Most recently, young but astute trainer Colin Nathan guided Hekkie Budler to victory for two world titles in one night - the WBA and IBF junior-flyweight belts - and for his achievements Budler was presented with The Ring Magazine belt.

The first local boxer to be awarded that belt was Vic Toweel after winning the undisputed universal world bantamweight title when he beat Manuel Ortiz on points over 15 rounds on May 31 1950 in front of 20,000 fans at Wembley Arena in Johannesburg.

Clearly, BSA has profited a lot from the new dispensation, which was ushered in in the early 1990s.

Today, South African boxing has somewhat stabilised. Its numerous tie-ups with global boxing bodies continues to pay dividends.

As we speak, the country has got no fewer than five top-notch world champions with a clutch of more than 10 contenders for world honours.

SA rules the roost on the continent, with more than 10 champions.

Anywhere else in the world boxing thrives on the presence of television coverage.

But sadly the continued absence of boxing television coverage in SA remains a huge blow. The waning fortunes of the SABC have hit boxing the hardest.

Despite all these shenanigans at the level of the national broadcaster, BSA has remained steadfast in its resolve to deliver South African boxing.

The abdication of the national broadcaster has seen sponsors pulling out of the fistic sport.

Consequently, promoters are deprived of any means to promote the sport.

BSA is on a quest to assist promoters in their forays in the market place and looking for funding opportunities.

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