Alumona explains how GOtv Boxing Night rescued frustrated Nigerian pugilists
• Preparations hot up for 20th edition
It is almost five years since GOtv Boxing Night debuted at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Lagos.
Before the arrival of GOtv Boxing Night in 2014, anyone predicting that a Nigerian boxer fighting locally would earn N100, 000 would have been branded a false prophet.
The Chief Executive Officer of Flykite Productions, (organisers of GOtv Boxing Night), Jenkins Alumona, stated that numerous factors subdued Nigerian boxing promoters, administrators and boxers from rising above the ordinary then.
Top among them, according to Alumona, was a reluctance to invest in the sport. “This ensured that the boxing boom of the 1960s, through the 80s, had become distant memories by the 1990s, forcing boxing promotions to become intermittent and subsequently almost dried up,” he stated
According to Alumona, the few promoters, who kept the flag flying, were unable to bring back the glory days. “As promotions dwindled, promoters, understandably, paid pittance to boxers, who took huge risks by fighting uninsured. The big stars of the heady days aged and quit the sport leaving the scene for the next generation, whose members toiled valiantly but were eventually crushed by the dire situation. Boxers waited between four and five years to get fights.
“Successive generations of Nigerian boxers drifted into menial vocations, thereby robbing the country of a place on world boxing map. Those who chose to continue did in hope, not expectation until they ran out of what they held on to. Those in the amateur cadre could not turn professional.
“That was the situation until 2014, when GOtv Boxing Night debuted as a panacea to ills afflicting the sport. The idea was not widely applauded immediately. But the sponsors had faith.
Alumona continues: “It was in this doubt-laden atmosphere that GOtv Boxing Night 1 was held on November 23, 2014 and was watched by a capacity crowd. Consistent funding by the sponsors has ensured boxers are insured, better paid and delivered a boxing show of impeccable organization and glamour.”
He pointed to the live broadcast by SuperSport across Africa that has made boxers local celebrities and sold them to continental audiences. Alumona added: “By the time the third edition was held, the sponsors decided to award N1million as cash prize for the best boxer at each event. That sum represented the biggest pay out to a Nigerian boxer fighting locally until December 2015, when it was bumped up to N1.5million because it held during the Yuletide.
“Other end-of-the-year editions have seen the prize money grow fatter to N2 million, N2.5 million and N3 million in December 2018.
“Within a short time, boxing fans in other Nigerian cities began clamouring for the show to be taken outside Lagos. Twice, in as many years, the show has been held in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, to great success.”
The revival of the sport has also been evidenced by the staging of six African Boxing Union (ABU) title fights and six West African Boxing Union (WABU) title bouts, Alumona said, adding that a major spin-off of the show is GOtv Boxing NextGen Search, a scheme developed to find the country’s most talented boxers, and have them nurtured by best coaches available.
“The GOtv Boxing NextGen Search, which began in February 2016, is approaching its fifth edition. The first two editions held in Lagos, while the other two held in Ibadan and Abeokuta respectively.
“Each edition of the scheme attracted over 100 boxers from all over the country for sparring sessions and selection. At each edition, over 20 boxers were discovered. On selection, each of the boxers underwent comprehensive medical tests, and were issued professional boxing licenses, all paid for by the sponsors,” he revealed.
He said the graduates were then taken into camp, where they were taught the rudiments of professional boxing, adding that they have also had opportunities to fight at different editions of GOtv Boxing Night. Those who have seized the opportunity provided include Rilwan “Baby Face” Babatunde, who is the incumbent WABU welterweight champion; and Opeyemi “Sense” Adeyemi, best boxer at the fourth edition.
“We are looking forward to a bigger and better 20th edition soon,” Alumona stated.