Pulling no Punches: Mbalula fights hard to save boxing from a knockout punch

The long-awaited decision by Sports Minister Fikile “Mbaks” Mbalula – to appoint new officials to run the affairs of Boxing SA (BSA) – seems to have saved the sport from the canvas.

The wily “Razzmatazz” – another of his nicknames – last week put his head on the block by installing Tsholofelo Lejaka as chief executive officer, Thabang Moses as chief financial officer and Sabelo Silinga as director of operations.

Boxing has been bleeding profusely over the past few of years because of poor administration.

The CEOs put in charge in the past to steer the organisation have been pretty disastrous leaders, to say the least.

And the elevation of the latest trio, who are said to be extremely efficient in whatever they do, will hopefully save the sport.

Kudos to the no-nonsense Mbalula for his unilateral decision to anoint the trio, particularly the youthful Lejaka to steer the BSA ship.

At 40, Lejaka is believed to be professional and dedicated. He is the youngest of all his BSA predecessors.

He exudes a confidence that should unequivocally make him a thorn in the side of unscrupulous promoters.

The BSA – previously known as the SA National Boxing Control Commission (SANBCC) – has often seen CEOs serve brief spells in office.

Most of them made no headway in the controlling body since its formation after the demise of the SANBCC – which by the way had been run by Stan Christodoulou from as early as the 1980s.

It seems Mbalula has delivered the first knockout blow in his quest to fix boxing in the country.

The BSA has been operating without a chief executive for almost a year now, after the sacking of Moffat Qithi. He was found to have, among other things, lied about his criminal record before landing the job.

Qithi’s successor, Loyiso Mtya, who served on interim basis at the helm of the BSA, threw in the towel last year after being suspended by the fistic authority following a probe relating to abuse of power.

So Lejaka inherits an entity that has been tarnished by an array of dubious chief executives.

All of them have failed to go the distance or chart a way forward for the betterment of professional administration in Mzansi.

There is no doubt Mbalula has chosen his punches meticulously in his fight to fix the sport in this country.

And the Razzmatazz is winning admirably.

During the past trying period, pertinent issues like television rights, promoters’ licencing and the sourcing of sponsorship dealt boxing a blow.

Fans have been starved of watching the sport on the box.

The blackout also affected fighters because promoters relied heavily on broadcast rights fees to pay them.

But all these hiccups are hopefully a thing of the past, thanks largely to Mbalula’s fight to bring respectability to boxing.

He has also restored the image of the game with his department’s R11 million investment in the roll-out of the Boxing is Back project.

Several faces in the CEO post have been hired and fired over the years. Will Lejaka be the longest-serving man in the position?

Shepherd Kiviet was appointed on an interim basis in January 1999.

He was succeeded by Mava Malla, whose tenure was fraught with controversy in the same year.

Then came Dumile Mateza, who served on an interim basis between 2000 and 2002. He played a pivotal role in the amendment of the Boxing Act in 2001.

Next came Thabo Moseki. He gave a good account of himself before he quit in a huff
in 2004.

But the BSA had secured a R27 million sponsorship during his tenure.

Krish Naidoo took charge between 2004 and 2007 before he, too, was relieved of
his duties.

He was followed by Bongani Khumalo, who served between 2007 and 2009 before he quit.

Many critics have asked why the BSA can’t manage to find a stable chief executive to be at its helm like other sporting codes have.

With Mbalula bringing stability to the BSA ship, boxing lovers may one day welcome back the era where great boxing match-ups were abundant.

Keep the punches straight from the shoulder, Mbaks.

. pmokhine@citypress.co.za

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