Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Where To Now for African Boxing? 

Africa boxing heads to the Paris 2024 summer Olympics on the backdrop of one of the poorest performances in the Olympic world qualifiers. From the two world qualifiers which took place, Africa managed to qualify only two boxers. This means eighteen (18) of the twenty (20) African boxers who will be in Paris qualified during the continental qualifiers.

At the first qualifiers which were hosted at Busto Arsizio in Italy, the continent failed to qualify a single athlete. At the second qualifiers in Thailand, it qualified only two athletes, namely Brigitte Mbabe of the Democratic Republic of Congo and David De Pina of Cape Verde.  

In a continent known for its boxing talent, acquiring only two slots at the world qualifiers from a hundred slots available should be a concern. Botswana’s former boxing Olympian Lechedzani ‘Master’ Luza says there are many reasons for the continent’s poor performances.

He says that lack of resources, lack of competitions at all levels, few qualified coaches, no deliberate efforts on development, lack of exposure and international experience are but a few of the reasons for the decline. 

“African boxing suffers from a severe lack of resources. This encompasses inadequate funding for training facilities, equipment, nutrition, and medical care. Many promising boxers are unable to access the necessary resources to train at a competitive level, putting them at a disadvantage compared to their peers from other regions.”

Luza, who coached Botswana boxers at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics says the continent ‘hosts less competitions of boxing as compared to other regions.’ He further adds that ‘there are insufficient competitive opportunities for boxers at both youth and elite levels in Africa.’ 

“Regular competition is crucial for developing skills, gaining experience, and staying sharp. The scarcity of tournaments and competitive matches means that African boxers are often less prepared when they face international opponents; who have had the benefit of frequent high-level competition. For example, in Europe they have international competitions almost every fortnight and it’s easier and cheaper to travel across Europe by train or air,” he hints. 

Another crucial reason is the shortage of qualified and experienced boxing coaches. “Effective coaching is critical for developing the technical and tactical skills necessary for success in the ring. Without access to knowledgeable coaches, many African boxers fail to reach their full potential. There is a lack of ‘structured’ long-term development programs aimed at nurturing talent from the grassroots to the elite level. Many African countries do not have comprehensive development plans for boxing. This results in a fragmented approach to training and development,” says Luza.

He further points out that without deliberate efforts to identify and cultivate talent, many potential champions may never emerge. This, he says, may lead to the silent death of boxing on the continent. 

With regards to Botswana, lack of finances played a big role in the failure to qualify a single boxer to the Olympics. Howver, Luza says Botswana is not alone in this regard. He says lack of support from governments and sporting institutions is rife in most, if not all African countries. 

“Most governments prioritise football and athletics. Investment in sports infrastructure, youth programs, and professional training facilities is essential for the growth of any sport. Governments and sporting bodies need to prioritise boxing by providing the necessary funding and support to build a strong foundation for the sport.”

“African boxers need more opportunities to train and compete abroad. Exposure to international training camps, sparring with top-tier opponents, and participating in global competitions are invaluable for gaining experience and learning new techniques. Programs that facilitate international exchange and collaboration could significantly enhance the capabilities of African boxers,” Luza says. 

He suggests that Africa needs to have its own ‘mutual competitions instead of going out to have camps in Europe or Asia.’ He says trips to Europe and Asia are expensive for Africans considering the already limited resources. Luza believes all boxing associations in Africa need to go back to the drawing board and introspect as they are equally good.

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