Johannesburg - The state of South African professional boxing has seen a sprinkling of national champions, with the Eastern Cape leading all other provinces with seven national titleholders to its credit.
This big number, which is comprised of fighters who mostly call shots in smaller weight divisions, proves that the province lives up to its top billing – being the traditional breeding ground of boxing.
The area is also famous for having produced some of the finest trainers and promoters who have seen to it that boxing is alive and well.
The province has churned out renowned world champions in the past, including Welcome “Hawk” Ncita and Vuyani “The Beast” Bungu. Both reigned supreme as International Boxing Federation junior featherweight titleholders.
The area added its seventh SA titleholder last Sunday with Thulani Mbenge, who dethroned Shaun Ness to be crowned welterweight king.
Trailing with more title championship belts are Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, with three kingpins apiece.
Western Cape and Limpopo boast one titleholder each.
According to the latest rating list, Khayelitsha’s Mzonke Fana, who holds the SA title, is still active in the ring despite being 43.
There are no champions in four other provinces: Free State; North West; Mpumalanga and Northern Cape.
Part of the reason for the scarcity of national champions in some of these provinces is that there are not enough promoters to stage fights there (see graphic).
The other factor is that most boxers from these areas have opted to further their boxing careers outside of their province.
But boxing seems to be thriving in the Free State. Promoter Lebo Mahoko of Dream Team Gym is keeping the fighters busy. He staged numerous title fights in the area last year.
Boxing SA chief executive officer Tsholofelo Lejaka said provinces with the most mass-based activity at community level like the Eastern Cape and Gauteng tended to be the ones that produced most of the national champions.
“This pattern continues the same way down to provinces with the least or no boxing activity at local level,” said Lejaka.
“Such provinces appear to be the ones that typically have no boxers among our national champions.”
Lejaka said their main challenge was to prioritise boxing development at community level because “the stronger community participation we have, the more chances that such communities will go on to produce national and world champions.”