Ten of South Africa’s top amateur boxers are heading for Cuba to hone their fighting skills in the build-up to the All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique and AIBA World Championships in Azerbaijan later this year, as well as next year’s Olympic Games in London.
The trip was made jointly possible by the national boxing body SANABO, South Africa’s Olympic governing body SASCOC as well as the Department of Sport and Recreation. It was also facilitated by the Cuban Government’s international relations agreement with South Africa.
The Cuban camp will commence on 19 July and continue to 5 August, 2011. The boxers will be hosted by the Havana Boxing Federation who have also agreed to make available the services of a top coach. A coach will also accompany the squad back to South Africa to assist the team with their build-up to the 2012 Olympics.
The team of 10, all men, will be accompanied by two local coaches, Mr Nkosinathi Hlatshwayo and Mr Andile Mofu.
Sending the boxers on their way was SASCOC President Mr Gideon Sam. A longtime boxing pundit, Sam had the following to say about the squad: “These boxers go to Cuba with the blessing of our national federation, SANABO, who played a pivotal role in the selection of these boxers. We want the entire country to support this step that boxing is taking because we all want to see better performances from our boxers at the Olympics.
“We have been dreaming about this project for a long time and it is finally all fitting into place. Our boxers will undergo some really intense training and they’ll return with a Cuban coach who will work with our own local coaches at the new base at the Free State University. This will be the start of establishing a fully-fledged high performance centre for our boxers. We believe that this is long overdue if you take into account the number of world champions that this country has produced in the past.
“These champions all started as amateurs and our role at SASCOC is to ensure that we lay the foundation for our boxers by nurturing the amateur ranks.”
For his part, coach Mofu is excited at the chance to get exposure to more international expertise. “This ‘marriage’ between SANABO and SASCOC is a great thing and is really paying dividends.
“I can confidently say that there is very definitely medal potential in this team we’re sending to Cuba. Having said that we must all understand that winning an Olympic medal is extremely tough. We know the calibre of the world’s amateur boxers and I have drummed it into these guysÔÇª when you leave these shores to take on international opponents you are going to meet the very best at one stage or other.”
Mofu though is encouraged with the squad that ranges in age from 19 to 24. “We’ve just had our national championships in Mpumalanga and these guys all won their fights. So the talent is there ÔÇô the Cuban trip will be all about getting more experience, new skills and techniques. Our next big competition is the All Africa Games in Mozambique and hopefully we’ll see the benefits there already.”
The 10 boxers are (with their respective provinces and in ascending weight division order):
Gift Pilane (Free State ÔÇô 49kg), Ludomo Lamati (Eastern Cape ÔÇô 52kg), Ayabonga Sonjica (Eastern Cape ÔÇô 56kg), Sinethemba Bam (Western Cape ÔÇô 60kg), Tulani Mbenge (Eastern Cape ÔÇô 64kg), Siphiwe Lusizi (Eastern Cape ÔÇô 69kg), Hlahla Hobwana (Limpopo ÔÇô 75kg), Walter Dlamini (Gauteng ÔÇô 81kg), Akani Phuzi (Limpopo ÔÇô 90kg) and Paul Schafer (Mpumalanga ÔÇô┬á91kg).