By Derek Bonnett< Covering world boxing for SecondsOut has some pretty excellent perks. Not only have I been able to share my coverage of the sport and my own personal thoughts and analysis with a world-wide audience, I have also been able to become introduced to a multitude of men and women who share the same passion for the Sweet Science and contribute to the sports greatness as fans, fellow writers, managers, trainers, and both current and former fighters of all levels. In fact, through the medium of writer at SecondsOut, I have actually learned far more about the sport than any information I have imparted on our readers.
Recently, while chatting on Baker Boxing, a Facebook boxing page organized by Florida-based Londoner Tony Baker, I was greeted by Zubair Mohammed after commenting on one of his threads concerning a decline in the quality of boxers from the African continent. I scrolled through some of the more prominent boxing nations in Africa and came up with some credible names off the top of my head: Lateef Kayode, Ajose Olusegun, Osamanu Adama, Thomas Oosthuizen, Chris Van Heerden, Moruti Mthalane, Nkosinathi Joyi, Hekkie Budler, etc. From where I was sitting, the African boxing scene looked to be in splendid health. Mohammed agreed that the fighters I listed were a capable group, but that overall the numbers of elite fighters were declining and informed me of his concern that the sport was actually losing popularity in his homeland of Kenya and other African nations. Like many other nations’ youth, activity has been taking a back seat to a more sedentary lifestyle.
The Nairobi-native informed me of his organization G-Rockers (Global Rockers), founded with head boxing trainer Ken Oyolo, and its plight to promote sport and positive citizenship among Africa’s youth.
"G-Rockers is a youth group founded in November 2011 with the aim of promoting sports while at the same time instilling discipline amongst the youth. The institution plans to use various sporting activities to reach out to the youth in their formative years since they have been known to respond well to such forums, currently boxing is the main sport. This is in a bid to nurture ingrown talent while also imparting virtues which will enable them become responsible citizens of the society."
The above quote was taken from the G-Rockers homepage and serves as the organization’s mission. Although still relatively new, G-Rockers, located in the Kawangware region of Kenya, has plans "to expand, where there is a need to nurture creative talent as well as create a favorable ambiance for innovation in the community among the inactive youth."
In an attempt to further the G-Rocker cause, I chatted with Mohammed over the computer and learned a bit more about his ambitions for his organization and what brought about its genesis.
Derek Bonnett: Tell me a little about G-Rockers and why you thought it was necessary to start this program in your homeland.
Zubair Mohammed: G-Rockers is basically a charity based organization, that finds and nurtures talented young boxers. The reason I started G-Rockers, was primarily because many young kids in the slums were doing drugs and losing a lot of focus and direction.
DB: What are the greatest struggles today’s youth are facing in Kenya and throughout Africa?
ZM: The youths are facing a lot of unemployment and poverty. This, combined with lack of proper mentorship.
DB: Why has boxing’s popularity begun to diminish across the continent, in your opinion? What
interests are kids pursuing instead?
ZM: Well, to start with a lot of promoters take advantage of upcoming boxers by not paying them their rightful dues. Lack of boxing events is also a major cause. For example, in Kenya the last time a proper boxing event took place was in 2012. Many kids are turning more to non-active pastimes such as Facebook and PlayStations these days.
DB: Why is boxing a good method of teaching character in young people?
ZM: The amount of self-discipline instilled in individuals during boxing training builds a positive character which lasts for a life time.
DB: What are your thoughts on the present amateur and professional boxing scene across Africa? Who stands out?
ZM: Well, in the amateur scene we need to train our coaches to understand the points system. We lose out on a lot of matches because the boxer was not aware of his points target. However, a young gentleman called Bukenya Nasser is one to watch for the future. In the professional ranks, currently Bogere Shariff and Chris Van Heerden are doing us proud. In the women’s game, Fatima Zarika and Bena Kaloki are both names to lookout for.
DB: What are some of the success stories produced by G Rockers? How have you helped kids today?
ZM: Most of my kids were very wild, disobedient, and petty thieves, but after joining G-Rockers these young kids have become more focused in life and education. I’ve helped these kids in making them more productive at home and in school. My greatest joy is seeing my team captain, Bradley Isuza, turning out to be a source of inspiration for the rest of the kids.
DB: Has your organization received assistance from government, outside agencies, or noble philanthropists?
ZM: To date nobody has come on board to assist. It’s a one man show, but I manage.
DB: What would you say are G-Rockers’ goals on a short and long term basis? How do you expect to grow?
ZM: Our short term goal is to be able to win the novices age group title. A Long term goal is have some of my kids fight for the world title. Hopefully, we do find a good sponsor or partner that can help us grow.
DB: Which boxers today do you think make the best role models for young people? What are the characteristics they present?
ZM: That’s a good question because most boxers are all about flash and money. I’d say Manny Pacquiao for his down to earth and God fearing nature. Also, the Klitschkos; they are the gentlemen of boxing.
DB: What concerns would you like to voice to the boxing world?
ZM: African boxing needs attention from the governing bodies. We don’t ask for funds; all we require is equipment and coaching courses. Africa should also be considered as a hosting venue for big fights. Every country should have a Bena Kaloki. She’s not only a boxer but a promoter too and one of the few who has taken good care of the boxers welfare.
For additional information about G Rockers, stop by www.grockerssports.com/index.html
For further boxing discourse, contact Derek DBO Bonnett on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 21, 2013