Sunday, September 27, 2020

Is Botswana finally ready to produce a pro boxing champion?

Until last week Friday, no Botswana professional boxer had fought for a professional title since Leslie Sekotswe tried for the then vacant International Boxing Federation International Bantamweight Title against Namibia’s Immanuel Naidjala five years ago.

Away in Namibia back then, Sekotswe fought to a credible draw against Naidjala, missing a chance to become a continental champion by a whisker. Naidjala went on to get a second shot and win the vacant continental title five months later when he beat Emilio Norfat of Tanzania. 

The long standing wait to see a local boxer fight for a title finally came to an end Friday a week ago when Steven ‘Small’ Bagwasi went toe to toe with South Africa’s Ayanda ‘Greyhound’ Nkosi, for the latter’s WBA Pan African Lightweight title. 

Unfortunately, the local lad, who was making only his fifth professional appearance and his first 12 rounds bout lost via unanimous decision to the South African champion.

 A week after Bagwasi’s attempt at a title, another local boxer, Tshepang ‘Gear Box’ Babui looks set to have a shot at a continental title. 

Now, the question on every Botswana boxing fan’s mouth is, can a local boxer finally win a professional boxing title?  

Over the past decade, scores of Botswana boxers have crossed the borders in pursuit of professionalism, all with limited success. 

The boxers, included among others, Thuso ‘Scud’ Khubamang, who went to United States of America, as well as the trio of Kgotla Baeti, Sekotswe and the late Herbert Nkabiti, who crossed the border into neighbouring South Africa.

“We have always maintained that this country is blessed with talented boxers who should be making a living through the sport they love. This is just the first step, the beginning of a hopefully prosperous era for our boxers,” Professional Boxing Association of Botswana (PBAB) president Tsietsi ‘Shakes’ Kebualemang opined.

“There is no doubt that very soon, Botswana will have its own professional boxing champion. In fact, I believe that by next year, we should have one of our own winning a professional title belt,” an optimistic Kebualemang said.

According to the PBAB president, the only hurdle that may hamper Botswana’s title push is the issue of finances.

“It is always an advantage for an athlete to play in his own country but it is currently difficult for us to have our boxers fight at home due to financial difficulties,” he explained.

“If our local companies can come on board and help our promoters with necessary finances to host professional bouts, then we will have a chance to see local boxers win titles here at home,” the PBAB president concluded.

Kebualemang’s sentiments were shared by ‘Scud’ Khubamang, who said with the amount of talent in Botswana, the country should have long produced a champion.

“We have lot of quality boxers in this country. If we were to compare, boxing in Botswana is in the same level with athletics,” the former boxer now turned promoter said.

“If we can have sponsors coming on board to partner with our local promoters, we will surely see a lot of our boxers shine in pro boxing. I believe we can have world champions,” he concluded. 

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.