Edun urges corporate Nigeria to emulate GOtv’s intervention in boxing
Former Lagos State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Wale Edun, is one of the big names in Nigeria’s boxing circuit. As Chairman of the Lagos Boxing Hall of Fame, Ekun runs a talent development programme that has proved to be a conveyor belt for the professional cadre. He spoke on how GOtv Boxing Night has induced revival in Nigerian boxing
Your assessment on domestic boxing in the last 25 years
“From around 1990s and even before then, amateur boxing and professional boxing were on a decline. Around 2009, amateur boxing in Lagos in particular, had a revival when the then Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, encouraged its revival through the collaboration of an NGO, Lagos Boxing Hall of Fame with the Lagos Boxing Association. That brought into being the likes of Olaide Fijabi, Otto Joeboy, Rilwan Oladosu, and many others, who became the bedrock of the revival and boost to professional boxing through GOtv Boxing Night being strongly supported by Odofin Adewunmi Ogunsanya, and the rest of the team at GOtv and DStv. So, I think from decline, from being in the backwaters, boxing has gradually made its way back.
“It’s one of the top performers when it comes to the National Sports Festival, national championships and the amateur level. These days, there is really no difference between amateur and professionals in the real definition of the sport. What we know as the sub-professional level has seen a revival and I think we must request more funding support to encourage young talents. But they need nurturing and need to be provided with the facilities.
There is a new leadership in the Lagos State Boxing Association and with the Lagos Boxing Hall of Fame, which I’m honored and fortunate to be Chairman, we are determined to give our youngsters that opportunity to excel. The likes of GOtv need to be joined by other top-flight sponsors. There is nothing greater than doing well in the country and supporting the youths.
You just hinted at the fact that things went down and are now gradually returning. In specific terms, what would you say are the changes that the involvement of GOtv has brought into this sport and what other things have you seen?
“Well, I think that is the key. The key to any sports person is regular activity and regular competition whether you are a footballer, cricketer, swimmer, tennis player or boxer. What you need is regular competition as an amateur and as a professional of course. It’s where you earn your living. I think that’s what has been brought to the table, both at the amateur and professional levels. One leads to the other; one is the academy for the other.
So, regular competition, more boxing shows that give various youngsters something to dream for. There is nothing like competition conditions to hone one’s skills beyond what you do in the gym. The steady flow of opportunities for amateurs has led to a steady flow of candidates for the professional cadre. To make professional boxing seem exciting enough to keep attracting television, to keep attracting GOtv, what you really need is for the sport to thrive at the amateur level. It’s the same anywhere in the world and any sport.
You attended the first GOtv Boxing NextGen Search, a talent hunt initiative, which took place at the Lagos Boxing Hall of Fame Gym. Four other editions have followed. What is your impression?
“Yes, it’s a tremendous one. It’s part of the talent search and scouting system. A similar thing happens all over the world and provides people a platform to display their raw talents, which need grooming. GOtv NextGen Search is a good hunting ground to identify young people, young sportsmen, who are ready to be boxers. And I think it should be spread to women as well.
Do you think Nigeria can produce elite-level boxers in the nearest future?
“I think we have the talent. The median age of the country is 19 and the population is 200 million or thereabouts. So, you have so many people that fall into the categories of around 12, 14 to 20, 24, 25, which are the usual sporting ages, particularly for young amateur boxers. So, we have what it takes in terms of raw materials. It’s for us to take advantage of such, provide facilities, encouragement, the stage and the platform.
“It is not all about turning professional, and it’s not all about being at the league level. So much goodness, satisfaction and so many good traits and characteristics come about from following a regimen of discipline, training and pursuit of the sporting goal. That’s what gives joy to the majority of young boys and girls who turn amateur boxers. Yes, out of that whole cohort, you get the elite talents that excel because they have something special, which allows you mentally and physically to excel.
“We want to see the few do well for themselves and earn a good living for their family as well as project positively the image of the country. At the end, we are doing it for the many sports of which amateur boxing is just one.
In what other ways can corporate organisations intervene in boxing for it to grow a lot more?
“Well, as Yoruba would say: “Owo ni keke eyin rere” (money is key). You have to put resources behind talent for it to achieve fantastic results. So, whether it is cash or in kind, the corporate sector must look inwards and count as part of its corporate social responsibility the support for sports and in this case, we are asking for support for boxing facilities that are required.
“Sometimes, the donor prefers to know that they are providing these particular items and they can look at the list of items from space, gym, equipment, boxing rings, boxing gloves and outfits. There is a whole range of ways, which individuals and companies can support in kind and of course, a large element is also cash support. We require financial support to provide for the many items that are needed to put together a successful boxing programme that will provide all the benefits, which we have been talking about.