Covid-19 knocks SA boxing to the canvas
CAPE TOWN - The coronavirus pandemic has been a devastating blow for South African boxing.
Since the government declared the national lockdown at the end of March the sport has come to a standstill because the boxing community heeded the official announcement.
The announcement, in part, reads: "no professional boxing gym or Boxing South Africa (BSA) licensees should arbitrarily resume training in gyms before compliance inspection of each gym is completed by BSA and written approval is received from the Minister of Sport."
Many of SA’s boxers are drawn from the country’s poorest communities and boxing has been their lone source of income.
BSA’s Director of Operations Cindy Nkomo said the government will decide when boxing activities will be resumed. She said BSA officials have visited boxing gyms to help with implementing government protocols and regulations so that facilities could be declared ‘safe’.
“BSA has done all the necessary submissions and we are now waiting on the government to take us to the next step. In the meantime, we will continue to assist to ensure that the environment and spaces at boxing venues all comply with the protocol of specific conditions,” said Nkomo.
Manny Fernandez, a Johannesburg boxing promoter, said local boxing has suffered one body blow after the other and some pugilists may be lost to the sport forever.
“It’s been devastating for some because many boxers rely solely on the sport for an income,” said Fernandez. “Many of them are also their family’s sole breadwinners.
“Many boxers have continued keeping fit at home but over time many have become demoralised because it is not known when they will be allowed to box again.
“The big problem is that because boxing is a contact sport, the government has decided it is not safe to return to training. The gyms are closed and apart from keeping fit, boxers also need to work with apparatus like punching bags.
“BSA officials have been to my gym to check out the facilities and what I have done to ensure that all protocols have been heeded. Now we’re just waiting to hear from BSA what the outcome is but right now the situation has worsened because of the spike of the infection rate in Gauteng.”
Patrick Mukala and other boxers based in South Africa face an uncertain future. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Johannesburg boxing trainer Gert Strydom said his major concern was the lot of development boxers.
“It’s a sad state of affairs and I have thought seriously about what could be done to resume training,” said Strydom.
“I have boxers who are enthusiastic and have remained fit by training at home, but they cannot go on like that forever. They need to have sparring and become tournament ready. Presently, that is not happening because of lockdown.”
Boxing promoter and business entrepreneur Jeremy Bean said the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare some of the inhumane conditions that persist at boxing facilities in some rural areas.
“When we look at the Eastern Cape, for example, there are boxing facilities that don’t even have access to running water,” said Bean. “Yet many of these gyms have gone on to produce world champions over the years.
“There are gym owners who have done all they can and are now waiting for the green light to start training in a controlled environment. I can’t see boxing tournaments taking place again this year.”