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Who will restore our boxing?

Posted by Written by Bisi Lawrence on 2008/10/16 | Views: 2757 |

Who will restore our boxing?

Vitali Klitschko made a punching bag out of Nigeria’s pride, Peter Samuel, over the weekend, in a world heavyweight championship fight.

Vitali Klitschko made a punching bag out of Nigeria’s pride, Peter Samuel, over the weekend, in a world heavyweight championship fight.

Battered and bruised in a pitiful manner, the Nigerian boxer suffered a technical knockout when he withdrew at the end of the seventh round. His handlers felt he had been punished enough, and they were right.

The photographs published almost two days after the nightmare of “The Nightmare”, attested to the severe punishment that preceded the loss of the WBC heavyweight title by the Nigerian boxer.

Most of us had to wait for those photographs because we could not get a direct transmission of the fight, though the promise was made on some channels, over and over again. It was, to some extent, disappointing.

Perhaps, that was not so bad, after all. It would have been rather painful to actually see our dear Samuel Peters being pummeled right before our eyes. From all considerations, it was not even what one might describe as a good scrap, being so one-sided. All the same, what pride in all our thirty-something TV stations if we could not get a peep out of them for such an important fight!

Taking a comprehensive view of the event, a woeful picture of the fight game emerges with a golden history now almost beclouded by an uninspiring contemporary situation. We moan about the departed glory of boxing, the sport which first placed our country on the world map.

Hogan Bassey first elevated Nigeria in global sports by his defeat over Cherif Hamia, in 1959, just before our independence. Dick Tiger then followed, three years later, at Middleweight, losing it and re-capturing it, until Emille Griffiths finally snatched it from him. But Dick was not finished.

He just moved up one weight to the Lightheavy, where he surprised Jose Torres by winning a second world title.

The boxing world was swarming with great names across the board at that time, from the forties through the seventies. In the Middleweight, for instance, there was the immortal Sugar Ray Robinson, who captured the world title on no less than four occasions.

There were also Paul Fender, Joey Giardello, Terry Downes, Gene Fullmer - all of them great fighters who held the world title at one point or the other.

Dick Tiger had to wade through them all, each in own time, to triumph as the king. He did it all, becoming the champion three times, at two different weights. He even brought the first world title fight to Africa, precisely to Ibadan, Nigeria, in the sixties, when he displayed his expertise live, before his own people.

The Peter’s fight could have been brought to Nigeria too, if there was any kind of organization which might have sponsored it. But there was none. The Nigerian Boxing Board of Control has gone comatose, pummeled from side to side by some impostors who have all but taken over the control of the game.

The members, unfortunately, have failed woefully to take up the challenge and have become satisfied with personally enjoying the privileges of the membership of international bodies which they gained, in the first place, by their executive positions in the NBB of C.

However, it is doubtful that a home advantage would have saved Peter from the hiding that he had coming to him.

The game of boxing evinced the deterioration of its class by that fight. It has always been my opinion that Peter fighter was not really cast in the classic mould of the great ones, and could only have become a champion in the circumstances that boxing had found itself. We have to admit these unpalatable facts.

I have once described Peter as a roly-poly fighter from what I saw of his fights. A “rough ‘n tumble”, perhaps, would be a better characterization.

He offers a target of a source of weakness in his “beer-belly”, which he has to protect by a cautious crouch, most of the time, but then he has such a short reach for a heavyweight.

He therefore puts himself in line of a good deal of punishment in the attempt to get to his mark. (Isaac Ikhuoria also suffered from the same insufficiency.) That makes him preoccupied with his defence which, unfortunately, still suffers a lot.

I wonder how far he has to go in his career, but you can’t write off a boxer on the strength of one fight. But then, we are dealing with more than one fight here.

The golden era that opened with the arrival of Muhammed Alii (formerly Cassius Clay) gave rise to a blossom of his several contemporaries of that period, among whom were Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, Frazier and others, even across the Atlantic. One common antecedent ran through most of them; they were former Olympic champions.

That told the story of the development of boxing in the second half of the last century. The amateur class had come into permanent existence along with the professional, and the age of the prize-fighter as known during the “bare-knuckle” era was gone for ever.

Boxing had become respectable and the black man in America latched on to its potential for providing good money and respectability. The first of them, Jack Johnson, had made a hash of his opportunity by offending the white world where the real power lay in America at that time.

However, Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber, came to recreate the image of the successful black man, till Mohammed Alii asserted his equality, both in the ring and outside it

The Olympic Games, with all its inhibitions of amateurism, added a lot to that respectability, but later detracted from the aggressiveness of the game through the imposition of amateur rules. All the same, the Americans never succumbed absolutely to the amateur constraints. Their boxers, both professional and amateur, were groomed in the same kind of stable.

While the discipline of fights in the amateur ranks was limited to three rounds each, the Americans trained for longer rounds.

And while the “points” syndrome weighed down on the amateurs, the American boxers were oriented to the style of a good puncher with defensive skills. And so their successes, especially in the heavier divisions, were outstanding.

That is what we have always preached for Nigerian boxing, and we made it work when I had the privilege to serve as a steward on the board.

We produced a number of African and Commonwealth champions, and almost made two world champions in Eddie Ndukwu and Obisia Nwakpa. Both were fighter-boxers, “defender-aggressors” whose punches carried adequate authority.

I know that Obisia, by the way, had always been concerned about Peter’s defence; the deficiency there has been analyzed above.

Obisia, himself, as one of the trainers of the boxers at the national level, would appear to have been pre-occupied with defensive tactics as demonstrated by his wards in Beijing..

It never really paid off. He himself carried little defence in his days, although he knew the art. Rather, he overwhelmed his opponents with his incessant flow of sleek but pure aggression. I would have expected him to impart some of that to his wards.

Even though amateur rules have, these days, made the work of a professional trainer more difficult by its electronic scoring system, a lot of emphasis still has to be placed on attacking the opponent to a point of confusion, at the very least.

That imbues the boxers with the mentality of professionals right from their amateur days.
This is very important because, at the end of it all, the desire of a boxer has to be the acquisition of fame and wealth from his fights.

That is only available in the professional class, and the preparation must start from the amateur ranks. We have suggested it here once before, that the division between the two classes should be abandoned forthwith, as it is in the USA so that the amateurs may imbibe the professional culture very early.

That is where they are going, anyway.
The aloof attitude of the Ministry of Sports has to be determined, right away. The organizers must begin to work with the professional trainers; in fact, they should be part of the coaches appointed for the amateurs.

In the same spirit, the ministry would now see the rationale in intervening judicially, and judiciously, in the chaos within the organization of professional boxing. Although it is true that professional boxing is not strictly within the purview of the ministry, that official organ for sports has an over-all responsibility for ALL sports.

This was the challenge creditably taken up by a former Sports Minister, Colonel Femi Olutoye, when a situation akin to the present case arose in his time.

He used his good offices to pour oil on the troubled waters, and restored boxing back to his feet.

Who will do it now? Well, it is on record that Dr. Amos Adamu once waded into the problem of the NBB of C. Great results were expected from his intervention at that time. But, unfortunately, he left the situation in a worse mess than he found it.

He gave virtual recognition to the wrong faction, thus inflicting a more intensive anarchy on the organization.

Yet we felt that he had been briefed adequately enough. But he disdained to be advised on an issue about which it was obvious he knew very little. Perhaps he would deign, from his Olympian heights, to re-visit the issue. With his spread of an octopus over sports in the country today, he still seems qualified to preside over a peace council for restoration of our boxing glory.

He need not romp into it as he did formerly. There are well-meaning citizens with enough knowledge of the sport and its organization in Nigeria to advise him, if he would listen. He may also learn that there are roles that the government can play on the rehabilitation of Samuel Peter other than organizing receptions for his arrival after a victorious outing.

“...A goal-less draw at home is not a bad result because we still have the chance to make it good in the second leg...” Maurice Coorman, Enyimba’s coach commenting on the match with Al Ahlly in the first leg of the CAF Champion’ League Semi-final.
And why not? More later.

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Comments (23)

emilia(Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria)says...

Wow,trying to get across to Ekene jnr he happens to be my old friend,lost his contact.any info would do me good

Valarie(Nairobi, Kenya)says...

What’s your point?

robloxian(Bangor, Maine, US)says...

hahahaha u r a wierdo…hehehe

robloxian(Bangor, Maine, US)says...

wow so bad.


U r weird gus