Hastings Bwalya’s boxing future

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AFTER a long and loud silence, Zambia’s promising welterweight boxer, 2007 All-Africa Games gold medalist, Hastings Bwalya made surprise news as it was reported last August 25 that the former Ibn Cason protégé had joined Oriental Quarries Boxing Stables as coach.

Not that there is anything wrong or fishy about this new development, but the undefeated Hastings (7-0-KO 5) held the promise and hope to go far in the business since he turned professional in 2009.

Having defeated stubborn Zimbabwean Silas Mandela in his last fight in Zambia two years ago on a unanimous points decision and recording a historic points victory over American Ashanti “Volcano” Hendrix in 2010, Hastings’ star appeared to be ever rising and if there was anything he was expected to be gunning for by now it was a world title.

There has been no official report (unless I missed it) about what exactly happened to the boxer’s relationship with his trainer Cason and the next thing was the news that Bwalya would be attached to Oriental Quarries amateur boxers to beef up the coaching bench headed by Greetings Kaonga.

Oriental Quarries operations director Christopher Malunga said the inclusion of Bwalya would add value to the stables’ upcoming boxers because of Bwalya’s pedigree in the sport. As an observer, I commend Oriental Quarries for their usual enterprising deeds aimed in part to raise the declining boxing standards in Zambia.

The future of boxing in this country and elsewhere certainly lies in amateur boxing. It’s from the crop of amateurs that professional world champions are made.

Zambia’s veteran boxer, Mike Chilambe who reigned as undefeated Zambia light-heavyweight and cruiserweight champ once gave me his take on why boxing standards had waned in Zambia. His answer:  ”a lack of amateur boxing experience by most professional boxers.”

Chilambe noted then that the current scenario where boxers ‘from the back streets’ climb the ring to fight as pros  is suicidal because they have never really been tested and  lack endurance, have low stamina, lack imagination and generally can not lay any claim to have a meaningful future in boxing.

The late Felix Bwalya, Lottie Mwale, Chisanda Mutti, John ‘Big Joe’ Sichula, Charm ‘Shuffle’ Chiteule, Joseph Chingangu, and Enock Chama were drilled in the amateur ranks before they turned pro and it was easy to see their calibre of boxing, Chilambe recalled with a sense of nostalgia.

Indeed, even on the international scene, all the great fighters of our time from legend Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Evander Holyfied, Andre Ward, Amir Khan, Lennox Lewis, Floyd Mayweather Jnr, Roy Jones Jnr, Oscar De La Hoya, among others, started their professional careers after winning medals as amateurs at the Olympics.

The future of boxing anywhere in the world is founded on amateur boxing. Without amateur boxing, you’re unlikely to produce quality boxers who can compete effectively or meaningfully in the professional ranks.

It is by sound grounding in the unpaid ranks that boxers polish their skills so that when they turn professional they are primed for championship success. This is the route Bwalya took. Having achieved a successful track record in the amateur rank, he launched a professional campaign in the United States, the Mecca of boxing, which was poised to bring glory to Zambia.

Hastings, a Green Buffaloes’ star boxer then, was Zambia’s only hope who brought glory to Zambia with a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Hastings started on the right path and when he turned the corner into the pro-ranks, he had acquired the necessary experience to make a meaningful professional career.

This is where I have difficulties understanding or reconciling the latest development of turning him into a coach instead of letting him continue with his pro career. Maybe I’m missing something here. Will he be allowed to double as boxer-coach or coach only?

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