Not even Floyd can save boxing

Jon Swift

Floyd Mayweather Jnr is, by his own admission, unsure of exactly what it is he is doing in South Africa – which raises the obvious question why no one has spelt it out for him.

Fikile Mbalula, our vociferous sports minister, is behind the visit to this country by the man billed as the world’s greatest pound-for-pound fighter.

It’s a claim that Mayweather has all the pedigree to back up. Gloved-up and dominating the ring as he tends to do, he is poetry in motion. This is truly a fighter that dreams are made of.

“He is the idol who cuts across all barriers and represents the very best example of overcoming the odds to achieve greatness,” gushed Mbalula.

“As the best fighter on the pla-net, Mayweather can shine a light on us and inspire the youth to achieve greatness.”

Let us stop right there for a moment and consider a couple of points – not least of all that a quick-fix solution to the many failings in this country’s boxing make-up can surely not be provided by a man – no matter how talented – merely passing through as a pampered tourist.

It is simply too much to expect in a society that cannot guarantee to provide clean water to its citizens.

The straight answer is that boxing in South Africa is slowly being strangled to death because the essential roots of the sport –the amateur fighters learning the hard and painful lessons of what is arguably the world’s toughest profession – have withered.

The amateur ranks will continue to be decimated by the false belief that there is a pile of gold in the professional ring.

It is an enduring myth. For every multimillionaire Mayweather there are probably a million penniless former pros.

That Mayweather, who won three Golden Gloves championships and a featherweight bronze medal at the Atlanta Olympics, made a fleeting appearance at the Dube Boxing Club where the late Baby Jake Matlala came from is an admirable, but purely symbolic, piece of window dressing.

We have been caught up in mistaking the razzmatazz for the reality; the instant flash of fame for the urgency of providing a solid and sustainable infrastructure at grass roots.

No whistle-stop tour of this country is going to revive South African boxing.

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