Posted by Press Releases on Aug 6, 2011
Revamping boxing in Nigeria

Revamping boxing in Nigeria

By Dan Osakwe

The poor performance of Nigerian born former heavyweight boxing champion, Samuel Peters, and the near extinction of quality pugilists in Nigeria have necessitated the need to beam a searchlight on the pathetic state of boxing in Nigeria. Boxing is the game of noble self- defence, the sport of the act of giving and receiving, the sport that obeys the principle of geometry-angle and distance shots.

It is the sport that teaches commitment, perseverance, endurance, determination, imagination and stoic courage; that orchestrates showmanship and the very sport that helped to restore the dignity of the black man in America when a galaxy of black boxers took the shine off their white counterparts in the nineteen sixties and seventies.

The sport that first put Nigeria’s name on the world map is on the course of a free fall. Long before football took the centre stage, boxing brought glory to Nigeria.

THE END: Nigeria’s Samuel Peter lies on the canvass during his failed bid for IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight championships belt in Frankfurt against champion, Wladmire Klitschko on September 11. Klitschko saw off his challenger with a 10th round technical knock-out. Photo: AFP
Memories are made of the exploits of late Dick Tiger, Ihetula, former world light heavyweight boxing champion, Hogan Jimoh, Dele Jonathan, perfect boxing man, Davidson Andeh and Ngozika Ekwelum. Great Olympic medalists like late Nojeem Mayegun (the first Nigerian boxer to win an Olympic medal in boxing), Isaac Ikhuoria, Peter Konyegwachie and David Izonretei remain Nigeria’s shinning examples in the history of Olympic boxing.Up till two decades ago or less, boxing promoters were keen on promoting boxing in Nigeria. Great fights like Soul Mambie versus Obisia Nwakpa and Ngozika Ekwelum against Kilimanjaro were promoted by Nigerians.

With the exception of Chief Aiyegbeni, Martin Osaile and Chief Aboderin, Nigeria boxing promoters have almost gone into total oblivion. Nigerian boxers lack identity. During their fighting days, Foreman remained himself. The same was true of Lennox Louis, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard and others. The way they talked, entrance to the ring, presentation before the media, trunk and glove colours and fighting style gave them their individual identities. Nigerian boxers are however completely different.

They lack the identity and rainbow colours associated with boxing and are yet to realize that boxing is pure showmanship with blood. Without showmanship, boxing becomes lethargic and dull. The Nigerian boxing arenas are no longer safe. The general insecurity at fight venues have prevented responsible boxing fans from coming to watch good fights and pay good money; leading to poor returns on investments for promoters and boxers.

It is on record that no Nigerian boxer who fought in Nigeria has ever taken up to N400, 000 pay packet after a fight – a sharp contrast to their counterparts in USA, whose pay packets run into millions of dollars. Added to these is the fact that most Nigerian boxers these days take to boxing at a relatively late age, unlike what happens in USA where potential boxers are discovered early and nurtured. The obvious advantage of tapping the gains of the acts of giving and receiving are lost because at their late entry age, their muscles and bones are already getting stiff. This affects their overall stamina.

To compound it all, boxing created a vacuum that is now being filled by football, music and other forms of entertainment. Football and music have emerged as gold mine for Nigerian youths. In the area of music and other entertainment, the youths are now interested in looking fashionable rather than take to boxing. Some even regard boxing as a game of punishment. Youths need to be encouraged to take to boxing because apart from the monetary returns (though very important), their names can be entered in the hall of world boxing fame, particularly if they go ahead to make impact like some of their contemporaries in football and athletics.

To take boxing back to its glorious days, both the Nigerian Amateur Boxing Association (NABA)s and Nigerian Boxing Board of Control (NBBC), need to shape up. This is the time to seriously consider the early discovery, nurturing and promotion of young Nigerian boxers. It is only when sponsors come into boxing that the sport can attract the necessary revenue that can improve the welfare of all stakeholders in boxing. Government alone cannot run boxing in Nigeria.

Another yawning gap that needs to be filled is the abandonment of boxing at the grass root level. In the past, most Nigerian boxers were discovered at the grass roots, at a commendable young age.

The worrisome insecurity in the country needs to be seriously addressed. Boxing arenas need to be adequately protected and safety of boxers, officials and fans guaranteed. Government at the three tier levels need to realize that boxing can be a gold mine in the area of potential medals and revenue and the issue of security cannot be negotiated.

In the past, the Armed Forces and other Paramilitary agencies like the Police and Customs provided good boxers. Great boxers like Obisia Nwakpa and Joe Lasisi were products of the Army and Nigerian Customs Service. Can those good old days be re-enacted?

Boxing that used to be the baby of the Nigerian Sporting Press is crying for care.

A  lot of Nigerian newspapers and magazines hardly have space for boxing stories and pictures.  The press needs to realize that boxing sometimes provides some comic and dramatic pictures that      can arouse readers’ interest.

Nigeria television stations are not fairing better in the coverage of boxing events.    Finally, to take boxing to its desired level, Nigeria needs a boxer in the image and colour of Mohammed Ali.

At his prime, Ali provided an aura, colour, shape, innovation, charisma and hype never known before in the history of boxing.

Ali embodied that force, caprice and charm which so often spring from genius.  With an advantage of a High School Certificate and a semi-urban upbringing, Ali gave boxing a rainbow colour.  He added poetry and prolog into boxing. “I fly like a butterfly and I sting like a bee”.

After me, there will be no more footwork, no more predictions.  Ali brought real showmanship into boxing.  With his ever smooth and smiling face, Ali won many boxing followers.  Like a typical jazz man, Ali placed creativity and imagination in his mind before any fight.

He developed a spirit, a codia in his mind.  His fans and opponents agree that Ali remains a boxing enigma and theatre.
At the promotional level, Nigeria needs a promoter in the class of Don King.  King sold boxing with passion, wit, originality and bombast.

He marketed boxing in town hall meetings, Churches, University campuses, political gatherings, airports and railway stations.  He saw boxing as a clear source of emancipation of the black man in a then white dominated sport of boxing.

Through his promotional skills, black heavy weight boxers like Larry Homes, Michael Spinks, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield emerged.  Don King saw the ring as the bible of boxing, like he stated, “if the ring is not the bible of boxing, then there is no new testament.”

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