Johannesburg – South African boxing got off the canvas after a critical start to 2012, but it remains a little bleary-eyed and on rubbery legs.
“If Boxing South Africa (BSA) was a citizen of South Africa,” was the scathing comment from Cope MP Graham Mackenzie, “it would be behind bars because it had broken all the rules.”
The indictment was made at a meeting between the reconstructed BSA board, under chairman Ngconde Balfour, and the parliamentary sub-committee for sport early in the year.
The meeting was arranged to discuss a report by the auditor-general's office on its findings on the “dire financial state” and general maladministration of BSA.
The parliamentary committee accepted that while the reconstructed BSA board had promised to reform and re-invigorate the organisation and correct the failings of the past, “there was no practical evidence of this materialising or that it could even be done.”
The conclusions by the Parliamentary committee contrasted with the views expressed by Balfour when the former sports minister and BSA chairman said “the spadework for reviving South African boxing and its administration to its former level of respectability, glory and widespread support has already been laid” – and further plans were in the pipeline to continue the procedure at a brisk pace.
Balfour's optimism emerged despite the auditor-general's findings that BSA's liabilities during the previous year had exceeded assets by R2.7 million and left the organisation with an accumulated shortfall of more than R6 million.
The Parliamentary Sports Portfolio Committee came to the conclusion that the annual government grant of R2.5 million to BSA was totally inadequate to reverse the trend – particularly as there were no concrete signs of promised sponsorship materialising.
And while much needed agreements with public broadcaster SABC to again televise boxing on an ongoing basis were reviewed, the disturbing status quo remained more or less.
Balfour, however, likened BSA to an ugly duckling that was in the process of turning into a sleek swan Ä “and like the duck paddling,” he said, “a lot of the work is taking place under the surface.” A great degree of this endeavour was achieved in the ring itself by the country's most accomplished performers in 2012, namely IBF flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane and Tommy Oosthuizen, who while holding the super-middleweight title of the less-recognised IBO, gained a respected international reputation in his own right.
While South Africa ended the year with seven so-called world champions, there are so many organisations proclaiming their own global champions that many of the titles are hardly worth the paper on which they are imprinted.
In the circumstances, the highly-regarded, long-established Ring Magazine's world rankings are widely considered the most legitimate available Ä with Mthalane ranked third in the world by Ring and Oosthuizen in fourth place.
The only two other South Africans rated among the top 10 by Ring are junior featherweight Jeffrey Mathebula in fourth position and former IBF strawweight champion Nkosinathi Joyi at number seven.
The seven so-called South African “world” champions are Mthalane (IBF flyweight), Oosthuizen (IBO super-middleweight), Chris van Heerden (IBO welterweight), Hekkie Budler (IBO strawweight), Lubalo Msuti (WBF bantamweight), Zolani Marali (World Boxing Federation junior welterweight) and Lovemore Ndou (World Boxing Foundation welterweight).
Oosthuizen was most active, but clear-cut victories over journeymen or veteran fighters like Serge Yannick (Cameroon), Fulgenicio Zuniga (Colombia) and Rowland Bryant (USA) gave little indication as to whether he can hold his own with the best in his weight category, like the irrepressible Andre Ward.
In the circumstances, Mthalane probably shaded Oosthuizen for the award of South Africa's number one pound-for-pound boxer in 2012 after the impressive eighth-round tko defence of his IBF title against tough-as teak Panamanian Ricardo Nunez.
In contrast, Joyi, widely considered South Africa's leading pound-for-pound fighter in 2011, was one of the disappointments of the year, surprisingly losing his IBF strawweight title on a seventh-round knockout against Mario Rodriguez in Mexico in September.
One of the most memorable fights of the year involving a South African was that in which Mathebula surrendered his IBF junior-featherweight title on points after 12 gruelling rounds against the redoubtable WBO champion, Nonito Donaire, in a unification bout in Carson, California.
Golden Gloves promoter Rodney Berman took a leaf out of football's book and introduced a “Super 8” knockout cruiserweight contest at Emperors Palace featuring eight fighters.
It injected a degree of interest into the local boxing scene and produced South Africa's most promising newcomer of the year in the form of the impressive ultimate winner, Thabiso “The Rock” Mchunu, who accounted in devastating fashion for Flo Simba (twice) and Danie Venter in the final.
In contrast, the biggest letdown was the bleak failure of the likeable Simba to fulfil the high hopes held out for him.
And a stain on South Africa's boxing reputation emerged when Gideon Buthelezi was awarded a split-points victory in his fight against the Philippines' Edren Dapudong for the vacant IBO junior bantamweight title. Buthelezi hit the canvas and was generally out-fought and out-thought – except in the eyes of two of the judges.
A vocal fight outside of the ring that continued to fascinate was that between rival promoters Berman and Branco Milenkovic, with the locqacious Nick Durandt, Harold Volbrecht and Peter Smith in the forefront among South Africa's trainers.
An incident that shocked and saddened the boxing fraternity was the murder of former WBO heavyweight champion Corrie Sanders at the age of 46 during a robbery in a restaurant near Britz in September.
Sanders fought the renowned Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, knocking out Wladimir for the WBO title in 2003 and being knocked out himself by Vitali in a fight for the WBC title.
With the likes of Gerrie Coetzee, the modest Sanders was rated one of South Africa's best-ever heavyweights. – Sapa