Despite being a well patronised sport, second only to soccer in terms of patronage on the domestic scene, boxing is facing challenges that threaten the progress of the sport.
Among others, Weekend Nation has established that for over five years, boxers in the country have been fighting on makeshift rings, putting boxers at risk to injuries.
The development has led to frequent stoppages to have loose planks fixed. In some cases, it has led to boxers falling on the canvas and outside the ring because of loose surface and ropes, respectively. The country can’t also host sanctioned international bouts.
A standard professional ring costs between $3 000 (about K2.2 million) and $8 000 (about K5.9 million).
Malawi has two makeshift rings, one in the Central Region and the other in the South while the North has none.
The rings, which were bought by Malawi National Council of Sports in 2007 are managed by Malawi Boxing Association (Maba).
Boxing clubs have not been spared the predicament either as Weekend Nation has also established that boxing clubs lack basic training equipment such as gloves, punching bags, skipping ropes and tread meals.
In some Maba boxing clubs that Weekend Nation visited, it was established that they use sacks filled with sand as punching bags.
Wilson Lameck, a member of Chilinde Boxing Club in Lilongwe, said: “Lack of equipment is hampering my dream of becoming an international title-winning professional boxer. Imagine we literally do not have any equipment here. We use sacks full of sand as punching bags and even the gloves are completely worn out.”
Another boxer Chikondi Makawa, who trains at Sun Village Boxing Club in Liwonde, said the club has no gloves, pads and punching bags, among others.
“It’s sad because we lack basic training equipment and we are already disadvantaged when facing opponents from other countries. No wonder we don’t do well.
“Even the ring we use during professional fights are not good unlike the ones we use outside the country. Boxing authorities should do something this problem,” he said.
Top female boxer Anisha Bashir camps in Zimbabwe whenever she has an international fight so as to benefit from good equipment.
Her Zimbabwe-based manager Clyde Musonda said: “The first thing I observed in Malawi is that there is lack of proper boxing equipment. A boxing club must have a good gym complete with boxing ring, punching bags and treadmeals. That is why I take Anisha to Zimbabwe so that she an use good boxing facilities.”
He said in countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia most companies invest heavily in boxing and do not depend on government alone.
Maba president Pyson Likagwa acknowledged the challenges, describing them as a crisis.
“We have huge challenges, topping the list is lack of equipment, in particular boxing rings which have outlived their lifespan. They are not supposed to be used anymore because they pose a danger to boxers, The surface is not even as the ring is in makeshift form and that can cause injuries to the boxers and acquiring new ones is on top of our agenda,” he said.
Likagwa said as a first step, they have already requested Malawi National Council Sports (MNSC) to buy them three sets of rings to be deployed in all the three regions.
Maba, just like other sports associations, is affiliated to MNSC and depends on government subventions.
On his part, Malawi Professional Boxing Control Board (MPBCB) president Lonzoe Defector Zimba said for now, they cannot afford to purchase a boxing ring.
“Our organisation has no sponsors. The money we use is from members’ pockets as such it is impossible to buy a new ring. We know government has lots of responsibilities, but it is their responsibility to promote sports, including boxing.
“Our boxing has not reached the levels whereby it can generate self-sustaining income. We still need government assistance,” said Zimba whose body has the rights to host professional fights by World Boxing Organisation (WBO) World Boxing Council (WBC), International Boxing Federation (IBF), World Boxing Federation (WBF) and International Boxing Organisation (IBO).
But with the current status, MPBCB cannot hold these title fight here unless they hire a ring.
In 2016 No Pain No Gain, a boxing stable, had to hire a ring from Oriental Quarries Boxing Promotions of Zambia during the African Boxing Union title fights at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc).
MNSC acting executive secretary Henry Mereka said they are considering request for boxing rings from Maba.
“Issues of boxing rings are on their list of issues they want to be addressed and we need to plan for that. As you know rings are expensive, but it’s something we are will work on,” he said.
On issues of funding, Mereka said associations, including Maba need to put their houses in order if they are to get government support.
” They need to formulate a strategic plan as an association on what they want to achieve and how they plan to work towards that. They need to state clearly their developmental plans and we are ready to support their programmes. Maba are yet to do that. But we seen that they are moving towards that. Recently they had an elective general assembly which is a good sign,” he said.