Analysis: ROBBIE MUSAKUZI
WHEN you narrate the history of boxing as a sport in Zambia with the current young generation, it sounds like fiction in their
The glamorous history of boxing in Zambia is only second to that of football. It is almost unbelievable that boxing was so popular in Zambia once upon a time that some high profile local boxing matches had to be staged at Independence and Woodland stadiums in Lusaka and watched live by thousands and others on their black and white television sets while others listened from their two Band radio sets across the country.
That there was one local memorable match between two Zambian light heavy weights in the name of late Lottie ‘Gunduzani’ Mwale and Chisanda ‘Kent Green’ Mutti (On 1 March 1986, he fought against Evander Holyfield in a Cruiserweight contest at Lancaster Host Resort, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA) which captivated the whole country and for weeks before the boxing match at Independence Stadium there were numerous press reports of fist fights by their respective supporters in bars and on UBZ buses across the city of Lusaka.
This is how popular boxing was in Zambia and it is possible to revive this sport and even take it to greater heights than before if only the officials at the Ministry of Youth and Sports and National Sports Council can put their act together.
In countries where boxing is currently thriving as a sport such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Mexico and several other countries in South America, boxing is a grassroot community sport as it also used to be in Zambia.
If Zambia as a country wants to re-establish itself once again as a boxing country it needs to start replicating the modern best practices in organising boxing as a sport from these countries.
Boxing is a grassroot community sport because unlike other sports, it requires very little space, equipment and investment.
The revival of boxing in Zambia must be seen as a top priority and the starting point is for Ministry of Youth and Sports, National Sports Council to and Zambia Amateur Boxing Association is to decentralise their operations to district level and introduce legislation to facilitate the formation and registration of countrywide grassroot community boxing clubs and then help these clubs with basic boxing equipment and capacity building support on how to manage and organise boxing clubs.
From these grassroot community boxing clubs should emerge the District and Provincial Boxing Association which should feed into the Zambia Amateur Boxing Association and the Zambia Professional Boxing Association.
The role of these district and provincial amateur boxing associations throughout the country should be to monitor the activities of the amateur grassroot community boxing clubs and organise local boxing tournaments from which should emerge amateur district and provincial boxing champions whom when they are ready can become professional boxers.
There are immense social and economic benefits for the country more than in any other sport if amateur boxing is well organised and supported at community level. It has been demonstrated world-wide to have a quicker yield and rate of payback on investment and success.
Its positive impact on individuals, households, communities, society and the nation is very well documented with its effect in tackling community anti-social behaviour, health issues, uniting communities, developing self-confidence and life skills in young people.
Major boxing events produce a positive economic value to the country as recently recorded in the UK during the Heavyweight boxing match between the Briton Anthony Joshua and Ukrainian Vladimir Klitchico.
The fight generated billions of dollars into the UK economy, while spending attributable to the over 90 thousand spectators who attended the live boxing match at London Wembley Stadium was also in millions of pounds.
The current Zambian government is carrying a heavy social and economic burden inherited from the past decades of youth unemployment, gender-based violence, petty crime, community morbidity, disjointed economic policies, child marriages’ and destitution which with an increased focus and government sports strategy can easily be reduced.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports and National Sports Council must begin to see the wider social and economic value of sport than what is prevailing. With all the political stability in the country devoid of political campaigns, now is the perfect time to explore in detail the role sports can play in the country.
There is no doubt sports like boxing can be used to help individual young citizens to improve their health, whether physical or mental and also as a vehicle to develop skills to help them get a job and foster social cohesion and community development.
This is what sport can do: it can reconnect the most disconnected; it can give a lifelong boost to self-confidence; it can give direction to the lost. It not only delivers great pleasure and teaches us a lot about ourselves and life in general, but it also gives individuals a deep insight into their own behaviour and that of others.
It also teaches people how to win, how to lose in every sphere of life and how to act in moments of stress and disappointment.
The author is an international associate, African Centre for Disaster Studies.