Can celebrity boxing reignite South Africa’s passion for the sport?

Can celebrity boxing reignite South Africa’s passion for the sport?


DURBAN – Despite being a loved sport in South Africa, professional boxing has undergone a big decline in the country since the mid-2000s.

Gone are the days when South Africans could tune into their own such as the late Baby Jake Matlala, Phillip Ndou and Corrie Sanders taking on the very best in the game.

The post-match interview of the bout uploaded on YouTube generated 2.5 million views by Tuesday, which was nearly five times more than the post-match interview of the recent Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders bout.

Combined, the Paul brothers have more than 43 million subscribers on YouTube and though their bouts are criticised by boxing traditionalists who feel that the sport is being disrespected, they are taking it to new audiences who otherwise would never have watched the sport.

The younger Paul, Jake, proved in his last bout against former Mixed Martial Artist Ben Askren in April that he has some skill, as he outclassed the 36-yearold who is a recognised name in MMA.

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Jake will next test himself against another UFC star in Tyron Woodley in August. Paul has a professional boxing record of three wins and no defeats and the fact that he has more high-intense boxing experience than Woodley means that he will be the pre-match favourite.

Should celebrity boxing take off in South Africa, it may just bring new viewership to a sport that risks extinction if action is not taken soon to repair it. The modern generation of youth will be less inclined to take up the sport as they don’t get to see countrymen such as Cassius Baloyi, Vuyani Bungu or Francois Botha in action, challenging for belts regularly.

South African rappers AKA and Cassper Nyovest have toyed with the idea of a boxing match against each other, which may never come to fruition, but others can make it happen.

Many view these celebrity boxing matches as money-making schemes and in a way they are. Mayweather proudly proclaimed after his bout against Paul that he is now the best at “legalised bank robbery”.

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