Left hook: Public brawls help to build up a fan frenzy

2011-03-26 19:31

So Branco Milenkovic’s boxing tournament at Nasrec last night was sold out a long time before a single punch was thrown, while publicist Brian Mitchell said on Thursday that the ticket sales for the Golden Gloves shindig across town. at ­Emperor’s Palace, were also going very well.

This result, which followed a ­despicable exchange of expletives ­between the protagonists, lends more credence to the saying: “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”

This sent one’s mind cascading down memory lane to when, before one of their three thrilling fights,
Muhammad Ali said: “Joe Frazier is so ugly that he should donate his face to the US Bureau of Wildlife.”

This insult, one of the multitude he endured from Ali, would antagonise the greatest left-hook so much, it sparked an animosity that raged for decades.

Ironically, such affronts also gave them a helluva lot of publicity and sold out their forthcoming world heavyweight battles in the early 1970s. Reporters ate out of the palms of these confrontationists’ hands, and by the time they faced each other in the ring, the venues would be packed to the brim.

By the same token, unfortunately, local reporters found themselves ­perhaps cajoled by the face-off that burned between Boxing South Africa (BSA) official Solly Selebi and top promoter Rodney Berman.

A number of fight authorities, including BSA chairperson Dr Peter Ngatane and veteran international ­referee Len Hunt, found themselves caught up in the crossfire. The verbal exchange between the two arose after the unprecedented move by the sanctioning committee to approve two big shows which were to take place simultaneously last night.

Berman had scheduled three world title fights at Emperors Palace, while Branco Milenkovic was to showcase two at Nasrec, Soweto.

Selebi, a member of the sanctioning committee, initially said any promoter who used the SABC service, “which caters for the poor”, would get BSA’s unqualified support.

This infuriated Berman, who is in partnership with the public broadcaster’s rival, SuperSport.

He took offence at Selebi’s ­“partisanship” and use of the word “poor”, calling Selebi a “racist”.

Selebi countered that “Berman is a spoiled brat who thinks each and every member of the board is his ­garden boy”.

The ugly exchange went on ­unabated and reporters had a field day.

But there was a lot of heartache as the unpleasant verbal exchange ensued.

However, it could have vindicated the Latin aphorism: “Suffering does not always come to injure.”

Boxing luminaries have agreed that South African boxers are still lagging far behind when it comes to marketing themselves in the media.

Our boxers cannot get ­attention when preparing for fights because they are dull; so deadened, even the grave yawns at them.

It is a tragedy that we seem to need the aberration of powerful boxing ­personalities to draw attention to ­forthcoming shows.

As John B Bogart’s gem goes: “When a dog bites a man, that is not news but when a man bites a dog, that is news.”

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