Before the 2008 Olympics, no local boxer came close to the medal table of the Olympics. The only boxer who did so last year was Khumiso Ikgopoleng after overcoming some of the world’s top opponents and only tumbled out in the quarter finals.
His performance, however, did not go unnoticed by boxing gurus around the world. Some were even shocked to hear that he was still an amateur boxer.
Information reaching Sunday Standard is that top South African trainers and promoters are fiercely courting Ikgopoleng to turn professional and join their stables. Ikgopoleng is reported to be receiving endless calls from trainers such as Nick Durant, Johnny Duploy, and Collen Nathan.
World-renowned promoters such as Rodney Berman and Branco Milenkovic are reportedly spending sleepless nights courting Ikgopoleng.
What makes Ikgopoleng to be in demand is the fact that he has spent about five years in Cuba under intensive training, something the South Africans believe automatically gives him an edge over other boxers. Also some of the top South African boxers who hold World titles were always hammered by Ikgopoleng in most Zone VI and African competitions.
Also local boxers Lesly Sekotswe and Kgota Baeti, who are performing exceptionally well, are based in South Africa.
“Ikgopoleng has an incredible record of which almost all trainers and promoters would fight for. As I am talking to you now, his phone never stops ringing because they are adamant he can do well and earn a lot of money in turn. Look at Sekotswe and Baeti who just went to South Africa. They are making waves but they are way far below Ikgopoleng. He is the best boxer in Africa, but the final decision rests with him but this is a once in a long time opportunity which he should brace for and make our country proud,” said the source who preferred anonymity. On the other hand, there have been reports in some local newspapers that Ikgopoleng has retired from boxing and would only concentrate in coaching upcoming youngsters. When approached for a comment, Ikgopoleng denied ever receiving a call from either trainers or promoters from South Africa. He said even if someone approaches him he would not go there.
“To be honest no body has ever contacted me to join any stable in South Africa, but it would not be surprising if they contact me because of my record in boxing. There are many things one should consider if he thinks of turning professional,” he said.
Ikgopoleng added that even if the opportunity comes his way he would not go for it because professional boxing has never been his ambition as was amateur boxing.
“I know I can definitely make it in the professional ranks but one has to look at a broader picture. It is mainly all about money and the boxers well being is less considered. If I leave Botswana and stay in South Africa that would mean sacrificing my job and it would take some time for me to make some money. I would have to be known first and that is when sponsorships and more title fights would come,” he said.
He made it clear that he is concentrating on coaching in Botswana because he has reached his ceiling. If Ikgopoleng indeed has retired from active boxing to concentrate on coaching, it would mark the end of an era of the golden generation in the amateur set up.
The golden generation included the likes of Gilbert Khunwane and Lechdezani ‘Master’ Luza. No upcoming boxer possesses the hunger and dedication these boxers had. The current ones are inconsistent and have the tendency of giving away matches they could have easily won.
On the other hand, several local professional boxers are also reported to be on their way to South Africa for high professional rankings. They are Seroba Binda and Dintwa Sloca.
Another excellent local boxer, Herbet Nkabite, is reported to have put his ambitions on hold because he still needs to sort out a few things. Some trainers and promoters have also reportedly shown interest in the boxers after watching them at training and at some tournaments.