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New boxing project bears fruit

South Africa’s search for Olympic champions in London, 2012 and beyond has reached the next round and more than 100 amateur boxers have completed basic military training at the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) infantry school in Oudtshoorn.

This follows an ambitious countrywide talent search by South Africa’s Olympic governing body, SASCOC, the South African National Boxing Organisation (SANABO) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) late last year.

There are just two years before the next Olympics but this extensive project aims at ensuring that as many talented amateur fighters as possible get to be part of the 2012 preparation programme.

The talent search tournaments started with the first bout in Kimberley, Northern Cape last October and then moved around nine provinces, culminating with the final two competitions taking place in Booysens, Johannesburg and Ga-Rankuwa late in November.

SANABO and Boxing SA (BSA) were responsible for the technical issues and operations of the project.

The 107 boxers who made the cut were then absorbed into the SANDF systems where they underwent mandatory basic military training from January to June 2010 as well as taking part in boxing training.

From this initial squad the numbers will be whittled down to a focused squad of around 30 and then finally a team of approximately 13 who will earn the cherry on top, a trip to Cuba.

After extensive training in Cuba, one of the traditional hot beds of world amateur boxing, selected Cuban coach(es) are scheduled to come to South Africa early in 2012 to put the final touches on Games preparation while at the same time also impart critical skills to their local counterparts.

SASCOC’s role in the project has been that of ÔÇ£overseeingÔÇØ the implementation of the project and ensuring that the existing structures have proper support systems to track and closely monitor the selected squad to ensure the smooth running of matters.

Already there is evidence of success emerging from the programme. Boxers that are part of the programme won 17 out of 19 bouts at a recent tournament held against universities in the area and all but one boxer from the programme will be part of a 22-member team to represent the Western Cape at the National Championships at East London in July 2010.

SASCOC president Gideon Sam said it was vital that the status of amateur boxing in South Africa was raised. “If we go back two years ago to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, how many boxing representatives did we have in Beijing? One, just one, in the shape of Jackson Chauke! Now for a country that boasts such a huge pool of pugilistic talent that is just not good enough.

“Let me remind you that prior to 1992 our boxers have won a total of 19 Olympic medals. So to come to the point where we had just one boxing representative at an Olympic Games is not on. We were very thin on the ground in Beijing and this programme is a way to rectify that. We need more representation at this level, because after all, there are a lot of professional boxers that are title holders. It shouldn’t be any different at amateur level.”

SANABO president Barries Barnard is also excited about the programme. “The important thing is not to expect results overnight. The boxers had to first do basic military training where they can’t concentrate exclusively on boxing. I think once they have trimmed the squad down and they start getting regular competition we’ll start reaping the benefits, probably from next year.”

Defence Force boxing patron, Brig General Yekelo commented as follows: “The Road to London boxing project is already proving to be a great success. Talented and experienced boxers along with upcoming talent are undergoing training in Oudtshoorn.

“The Defence Force has managed both their military training and boxing related training successfully. We are however, mindful of the need to balance the focus on high performance and development. This will ensure that we have depth and are able to sustain success into the future’.