Nice to have you, Arnie, but where were our boxing greats?

Sport

Nice to have you, Arnie, but where were our boxing greats?

Brian Mitchell wasn’t at the Boxing Awards, and neither were many, many other former stars of the ring

Journalist


The Terminator came to Johannesburg looking for boxing great Brian Mitchell. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a popular guest at the SA Boxing Awards on Friday night, popping in there because the tournament staged during the ceremony was actually part of the annual Arnold sports and fitness festival.
Guests flocked to the front of the stage at the Sandton Convention Centre to take photos when the Hollywood action star appeared to make a brief address and hand out some awards.
Those same people didn’t rush there for the many politicians and sport administrators who presented the bulk of the awards.
“SA has offered some great, great fighters,” Schwarzenegger told the guests. “There was one guy by the name of Mitchell I wanted to meet today. I don’t think he’s here yet. He was one of the great fighters, but there are so many others.”
Well, Mitchell wasn’t at the Boxing Awards, and neither were many, many other former stars of the ring. Does it strike anyone else as odd that Schwarzenegger should mention a former great when the organisers didn’t seem to care? Why could they not get former stars of the sport involved in the ceremony?
A few sat in the crowd, like Harold Volbrecht, who defended his SA welterweight crown a record 19 times, and former world title holders Isaac Hlatshwayo and Jan Bergman. Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, one of the sweetest fighters to have come out of SA in the past 25 years, was there as a cornerman for one of the fights. But they were silent witnesses with no role to play.
And where were the likes of Vuyani Bungu, Welcome Ncita, Peter Mathebula, Dingaan Thobela and Gerrie Coetzee? They could have rolled in past heavyweights Jimmy Abbott and Kallie Knoetze too, quite frankly, to help dish out the awards. 
Boxing SA can still have a politician or an administrator to share the duty of handing over a prize – if they really want to – but the awards should be about boxing. 
The stars of old should still be getting celebrated, and an awards ceremony like this is a perfect opportunity to do so. There are veteran boxing associations in Soweto and on the East Rand; they would have surely assisted in bringing some of the old-timers through. This would be a chance for younger boxers to learn more about their sport’s history and find out about how boxing has changed over the years.
And the older ones enjoy it too, spending time with the new stars as well as their former foes, the echoes of wild crowds still ringing in their ears. For them, it’s nice just to be remembered.When our ageing stars eventually die, we like to bemoan the fact that they had been forgotten and, invariably, fallen on hard times. Let’s remember them while they’re still with us.After all, if Schwarzenegger can …

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