Boxing tournaments in Botswana, whether international or local, used to attract a lot of spectators wherever they were held.
Spectators were always thrilled from start to end because then there were great boxers who performed heroically.
Currently, the attendance at such tournaments has tremendously gone down. The worst hard hit are the interclub tournaments which always leave a lot to be desired because they never produce sparks.
During those bygone days, there were boxers like Lechedzani ‘Master’ Luza, Lesley Sekotswe, Gilbert Khunwane, Khumiso Ikgopoleng, Thebe Setlakgosi and Thuso Khubamang.
With the exception of Sekotswe and Ikgopoleng, other boxers have called it quits for a variety of reasons. Sekotswe has joined professional ranks in South Africa while Ikgopoleng looks set to hang up his gloves. He no longer has challenges in local and international competitions because he has achieved more than his predecessors and has a stable job.
The vanishing of the popular legion is seen as a major contributing factor to the decline in attendance at boxing matches.
Ikgopoleng is also the only active legend and those who are following him have a long way to go if they are to reach higher standards.
The Botswana Boxing Association’s technical officer, Healer Modiradilo, told Sunday Standard that people no longer attend boxing tournaments because of the waning standards in boxing compared to previous years.
Modiradilo said there are no longer great boxers today and a lot still needs to be done.
He, however, added that several factors are attributable to that. “Those great boxers like Sekotswe, Luza and Khunwane were all residing in Gaborone. That meant they had ample time to train together for bigger matches. Since they were also competition orientated, they took boxing to another level,” he said.
Modiradilo added that some of the local great boxers were highly disciplined on and off the field, something that he said is lacking in the current boxers.
“The typical example is Ikgopoleng. By bowing out in the quarter finals of the Olympics recently, he showed he is among the top eight in the world. He did not reach that stage by mistake but through hard work. Ikgopoleng is one of the few disciplined boxers on and off the field I have ever seen,” said Modiradilo.
He said things are different now because several boxers with a lot of potential are scattered around the country, making it difficult to monitor their progress. “Once boxers are scattered with no professional discipline, it becomes a problem. What makes matters worse is the fact that the national team is not systematic and by the time they come for camp the coaches have to start working on the basics, like fitness level, instead of going for tactics and techniques.
Modiradilo, however, said they are not just watching, but trying with all what they have to bring good boxers close to Gaborone. He said they normally recommend boxers to clubs in Gaborone and it is starting to bear fruit.