As the Zimbabwe national soccer team, the Warriors, made an unceremonious exit from the African Nations Cup through elimination, the country’s current number one sportsman, pugilist Charles Manyuchi, was leaving for Zambia for camp in preparation for the defence of his WBC welterweight title against Qudratillo Abduqaxorov (W:9; L:0; D0) of Singapore.
Manyuchi (W20; L2; D1), who a week earlier had scooped the Annual National Sports Awards top accolade, had managed to light the domestic sports arena with a convincing victory against Russian Dmitry Mikhaylenko. What made the victory even sweeter was the fact that he triumphed right in the backyard of the Russian (alias “The Mechanic”), for which his pickings are reported to have been $30 000.
An anticipated first fight since being crowned African and, subsequently, world silver champion in front of his home crowd in Harare four months later, however, failed to materialise with French opponent Damien Martin failing to fulfil the fixture for reasons that were not made public.
Still, the local boxing sensation went on to pocket a cool $40 000 for the little sweat broken in just 2m,43s of work against last-minute replacement Jose Agustin Feria of Colombia.
That the best athlete emerges from the least performing sporting discipline is ironic, given the fact that for five years, not a single professional boxing tournament was put up in Zimbabwe.
The country has literally become a one boxer nation.
Expectations are quite high that the script will no longer read the same with the recent appointment of a new commission, the Zimbabwe National Boxing and Wrestling Control Board chaired by Richard Hondo.
The former UZ physiology department employee was once at the helm of the same establishment for a total 30 years and the trust vested in him by the Minister of Sports and Recreation can best be summed up in the adage, “better the devil we know than the one we don’t”.
However, there are concerns among some boxing stakeholders that should the anomalies that handicapped the previous board from executing their mandated functions remain unattended to, the sport will continue to sing the same woes.
“A look at the previous set-up (board) tells a story of massive resignations by members, five in total, citing unfavourable working conditions which culminated in frustration.
“As per the Boxing and Wrestling Control Act Chapter 25:02, which stipulates that treasury gives an annual grant to the commission, the team operated mainly from their own pockets and meetings in the beginning were held in their homes.
“Zimbabwe does not have a single professional boxing ring such that even for the October 14, 2016 international tournament held at the HICC, a ring had to be transported from Zambia.
“Though there was promise for offer of office space by the Minister, officials still have to move in and if they do, there is need for a budget to cater for the day to day running of the facility,” said a former promoter on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the new board has pronounced its entry into office with a graduation tournament for boxers from the amateur into professional ranks.
The tournament, held at a gym at Borrowdale Race Course on Sunday, January 29, was aimed at bridging the gap between the two categories and afford boxers who have spent lengthy periods in the former to fight as professionals.
It is expected that the next stage the new office holders need to focus on is the rating of boxers into their respective divisions as the ages-old list has some boxers who have since retired or passed on.