Cape Town - The boxing fraternity are over the moon following Boxing South Africa's announcement that fans can return to tournaments with immediate effect.
Boxing SA, the country's boxing controlling body, said tournament officials will have to provide proof of a negative test, not older than 72 hours, on the day of the weigh-in. Strangely, fans will not be required to provide proof of vaccination or negative tests when entering the venue. They will be required to observe the usual protocols like wearing masks, social distancing, and sanitisation.
Gauteng's Manny Fernandes, a former 'Boxing SA Trainer of the Year' award winner, said he was pleased to have sponsors ringside again. "I am super excited that fans can watch boxing again," said Fernandes. "It also means that sponsors and their guests can be ringside. Sponsorship is the lifeblood of boxing, and it's wonderful that we can have our sponsors at tournaments."
The Mpumalanga boxing promoter Thinus Strydom who was recently decorated by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture for his ground-breaking transformation initiatives during the dark days of Apartheid, said he was overwhelmed.
"What the government don't realise is that many boxers are drawn from the poorest communities, and a boxing career can be life-changing for both boxer and their families," said Strydom. "So many boxers have already thrown in the towel because of the lack of opportunities.
"By opening the doors, it means more promoters will start staging events, and that translates to opportunities for boxers.
"It's time for the government to realise the importance of boxing in the country's most disadvantaged areas of South Africa."
Leading SA matchmaker and agent Willie Saayman said the boxing fraternity welcomed the news with great excitement.
"In recent events, we stood strong round by round, but I could see the yearning of every boxer, wishing the fans are back," Saayman.
"I'm pleased for the sport and the business thereof. I can't wait to hear the excitement from the fans when next the boxers go toe to toe. Let's do it."
Jackie Brice of Jackie Brice Promotions said the news was long overdue. "During the hard lockdown months, we continued to plough money into boxing by staging three tournaments," said Brice. "It was tough because there was no gate income. I have tournaments coming up, and it's great that we can welcome fans back.
"This is great news because we are staging a bill next February when we'll have two world title bouts on the cards."
Seasoned South African boxing trainer Gert Strydom of Randburg was puzzled that fans are not required to provide proof of vaccination at the entrance.
"Strangely, spectators will not have to provide proof of tests or a vaccination certificate at a boxing event," said Strydom.
"Why is it then fighters and cornermen must be tested? Will it be safe to allow spectators without presenting proof of a negative Covid test? I think we need to know that it is safe to admit the crowd after we have proof of their Covid status and vaccination."
The statement, in part, reads: 'On 30 September 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the easing of Covid-19 restrictions and placed the country on alert level 1 lockdown.
'Subsequent to the announcement, new regulations were issued on 10 October 2021 proclaiming the return of spectators to events.
'Boxing SA is pleased to confirm that such allowance is also applicable to boxing and with immediate effect, subject to strict adherence to the times of operations and any other applicable restrictions. We therefore would like to give guidance on the return of spectators and confirm other details related to Covid-19 requirements and protocols.
'Spectators are allowed at a maximum of 750 persons for indoor venues and a maximum of 2 000 persons for outdoor venues. If, however the venue, indoor or outdoor, is too small to hold the prescribed number of persons then not more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used.
'All tournaments must end no later than 23h00 to allow sufficient time for all participants, event personnel and Boxing SA Officials to make it to their place of residence before the midnight curfew.
'Promoters must ensure that all other applicable requirements and protocols related to hosting of events are observed, including but not limited to, wearing of masks, social distancing, and sanitisation.
'Currently, all other requirements related to the participation of athletes in an event, such as testing of boxers and their corners, remain unchanged. This means that all boxers and their corners must present proof of a negative test, not older than 72 hours, on the day of the weigh-in.
'At the time of issuing this correspondence, there had not been any confirmation whether spectators would require proof of vaccination to be allowed at tournaments. It is, therefore, our understanding as Boxing SA that tournaments should proceed with spectators observing applicable Covid-19 protocols such as wearing of masks, social distancing, and sanitisation.'
Recently, national boxing was given a shot in the arm after South Africa was removed from Britain's red list which will do away with travel restrictions. Many SA promoters have strong ties with British boxers who have featured in local tournaments over the last few years.