Television can lift boxing in SA off the canvas

Khulile Radu is concerned about the low numbers at matches.
Khulile Radu is concerned about the low numbers at matches.

Boxing's marketing is at an all-time low as the sport's decline in popularity continues.

While there is much gnashing of teeth over this decline, all is not lost. What is required, especially here in SA, are strategies that can be used to arrest the decline and expand the sport's popularity.

Khulile Radu, a Boxing SA board member, said something drastic needs to happen.

"Look, the Covid-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc. It is difficult to tell where will we end up. But even before the national lockdown in March, we were worried about the numbers of fans attending boxing matches," said Radu, a former professional boxer.

He said the presence of national television at live boxing tournaments could bring back the crowds.

"Without television, we are doomed," he said. "Look at football matches on television. Stadiums are full and even those fans who did not make it to stadiums still enjoy watching games live on television."

The presence of television will definitely see an improvement in boxers' purse monies because promoters will get paid broadcasting rights by broadcast houses.

Boxers' managers would be able to negotiate sponsorship deals for their charges with the corporate world for boxers to earn extra money by wearing branded clothes.

History teaches us that the popularity of boxing was such that 90,000 spectators crammed the Boyle's Thirty Acres Arena in New Jersey in the US when Jack Dempsey retained his world heavyweight title by a fourth-round knockout of Georges Carpentier on this day in 1921.

A record 86,000 fans packed Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria when American "Big" John Tate defeated Gerrie Coetzee on points for the vacant WBA heavyweight title on October 20 1979.

During those years, boxing matches took place on Friday nights and the national broadcaster was always there for live broadcasts.

The change to hosting tournaments on Sunday afternoons, just after football matches, did not affect the sport at all because television was still there. Boxers of that era became popular and were easily recognised when walking in the streets due to the live broadcast.

Boxing stakeholders of this era must engage the sports ministry regarding their plight to have the sport back on national television for the noble art to regain its fame and position as the second most loved sporting code in the country.

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