By Lovemore Ndou: In a sport mostly dominated by males today it’s not so rare to see women boxing officials. I remember when I first laced on a pair of boxing gloves in the 1980’s in South Africa women officials let alone women fighters was a scarcity. In fact the only women around boxing tournaments were usually spectators or were there to support their loved ones.
Today women boxers and officials form a bigger part of the boxing world. Personally I believe it is a great thing for boxing. Gone are the days of discrimination by gender. Today we live in a world where anything a man can do a woman can do better. We have women Prime Ministers and Presidents and they are doing a marvellous job. Some of the highly intelligent lawyers, Judges, scientists, doctors, pilots, etc, are women. We even have women in the army defending our countries against terrorism today. Despite that there are still some men who feel boxing is not a place for women, whether as a fighter or official.
Recently I had a debate which ended in a heated argument with an old acquaintance who is in his late 70’s, about women boxing officials. His position was women should never be allowed anywhere near a boxing ring. In fact the way he went about it he came across as a misogynist. He seemed to hate everything about women in power or women doing anything that used to be predominantly male-dominated or male-oriented. The first of the comments he made that pissed me off was more directed to the current Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. His words were, and I quote: “Son you can’t let a ‘vagina’ officiate boxing just like you can’t let it run a country. Look at the current Prime Minister, Julie, she is leading the country down the gutter.”
As much as I’m not a big fan of Julia Gillard I was disgusted by his choice of words and felt I had to put him in his place. My response was “well, maybe you need to appreciate a ‘vagina’ a bit more because it brought you into this world.” My dear old friend did not appreciate my response at all and that’s when he promised to knock the lights out of me. With that I just walked away with a big smile on my face.
Women have been officiating boxing tournaments since the 1970’s and they do a great job. Carol Polis was appointed a boxing judge in 1973. A year later Eva Shain was also appointed a judge by the New York State Athletic Commission. She in fact went on to become the first woman to judge a heavyweight title fight when Muhammad Ali took on Earnie Shavers at the Madison Square Garden in 1977.
Recently I had an opportunity to speak to another female boxing official from South Africa, Sylvia Mokaila. She had in fact just returned from Cancun, Mexico where she attended the WBC Convention. Sylvia has been a boxing official since 1998. She knows the game inside out. She has so far officiated in a total of 192 fights and 43 of those being title fights including world title fights. She works as a judge and referee for two of the leading boxing organizations, the IBF and the WBC. She also works with South Africa’s Boxing Authority, Boxing South Africa.
She is a former athlete herself who once excelled in 100m and 200m sprints including 100m and 400m hurdles. She was never a boxer herself but has always had a passion for the sport. She is so passionate about the sport to a point that she attends yearly conventions held by these boxing organizations. She has attended the convention in Dubrovnik in Croatia, Chengdu in China, Las Vegas in the USA and recently Cancun in Mexico. Apart from being a boxing official, Sylvia holds a fulltime job with the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture in Mahikeng, South Africa. A God-fearing woman who believes sports can help turn our children into better future role models. When I asked her what messages and advice she has to offer young people from her Province her response was simply; “Perseverance is the key to success. Do the right thing at the right time. Stand up and make use of your God-given talent. Stay away from drugs and a life of crime. Don’t be a gangsta but let’s work together and put the Province of North West on the map”.
That I believe is the best advice any parent can offer today’s youth. Especially the Youth of South Africa where crime has become a norm and a part of everyday life. On a daily basis many young children of South Africa die from crime related violence. It is only through sports and education that these kids can be kept out of these crime-driven streets. And it is only through sports and education that these kids can become future role models and leaders in South Africa. Sylvia uses her position as a renowned boxing official to help guide these kids. South African boxing needs more women like Sylvia. And as to my ‘misogynist’ of a friend maybe if he took a good look at the works of women like Sylvia he might learn to appreciate and respect women a bit more.
December 17, 2012