By Michael Benjamin
After a one month rest the ProAm boxing cards are set to resume with four sizzling bouts this month end and once again boxing buffs can look forward to the exciting fights that have become an important part of the sports calendar.
Approximately one year ago Caribbean Boxing Federation (CABOFE) President Peter Abdool, who also holds a similar position on the Guyana Boxing Board of Control (GBBC), inaugurated the ProAm boxing card with the objective of providing adequate and qualitative activity for local pugilists. He viewed the initiative as the launching pad to international accomplishments.
The programme got underway in February and concluded in early December and all told, boxing buffs were treated to ten cards comprising forty bouts. Despite the initial apprehension by many, these cards provided a high level of entertainment if one is to be guided by the favourable feedback received.
Admittedly, the purse on offer is not as substantial as the boxers would have liked it to be; each fighter is paid fifty thousand dollars per fight. However, some boxers have been appearing on most of the cards which makes it a lucrative undertaking for them. Further, these fighters that would have fought on simultaneous cards would not have been burdened by heavy gym work since their fitness would have already been intact. Coupled with that, the promoters had managed to broker a deal with the management of the National Communication Network (NCN) where those unable to attend the card, for whatever reason, are able to view the action as it unfolds. The boxers would benefit immensely from this ploy as it allowed a range of persons to assess their performances and opens the door for opportunities.
When one does the Math, the promoter is required to fork out four hundred thousand dollars for purses. Then there are also other considerations and monetary requirements that have pushed the investment figure through the ceiling, so to speak. To date, the attendance has been so sparse that one could easily deduce that the expenditure surely outweighs the income, yet Mr. Abdool, armed with visions of success, persists.
At the inaugural press conference last year February to divulge the details of the card, the GBBC president clearly stated that thrust of the initiative was to provide local pugilists with frequent activity while preparing them for the rigors of international duties. Mr. Abdool had stated then, that he was depending heavily on corporate Guyana to offset the immense expenses of the card.
All this time, the doubting Thomas’s questioned the wisdom of the decision and predicted that the card would have died a natural death long before its establishment. Now, eleven months later, instead of perishing, the card is set to eclipse the expectations of the naysayer. The input of the corporate giants the likes of Courts, Ansa McAl, Sterling Products Ltd, Singers, Guyoil and a host of others cannot be understated; without such support the initiative would have fizzed out.
Further, if one should evaluate the success of the card based on the original projections, he/she would be forced to, even grudgingly, admit that there has been a positive shift of the arc. Leon ‘The Lion’ Gilkes, Pauline London, Mandessa Moses and a host of other fighters have been able to display their talent several times during the year; procuring what added up to substantial purses. One needs to remember that prior to the ProAm initiative boxers fought at an average of once every six months, sometime less frequently. The purse on offer for that fight might have been just over one hundred thousand dollars. Immediately, one can observe the better option. Added to that, the length of time taken between fights would have necessitated that the pugilists work harder to whip themselves into shape for each bout. Further, some of the fighters that were selected to do battle on the ProAm cards would have been hard pressed to procure fights on some of the regular promotions since those promoters were hardly likely to take unnecessary chances with their investments.
That the organizers were able to collaborate with the Sports Ministry as well as the National Communication Network, plus the input of the corporate community might be the reason why the fights have been able to last this long.
The feedback received from the public at large seems to suggest that those able to access the fights via television view it as a brilliant idea. The few that ignore the live broadcasts and trudge to the actual venue is commendable but unfortunately has been in the minority. It means that the takings at the gate can hardly compensate for the tireless work, not to mention the monetary investment of the organizers.
Despite his determination to make the initiative work and despite his staunch belief that the cards are serving their initial purpose, Mr. Abdool would soon be required to pause for a rain check. As the situation now stands, there is a need for more corporate intervention, not merely by numbers but by the size of their input. Notwithstanding the televised aspect of the card, the masses must also visit the arena to offer moral and other support.
On the other hand, while the business community may demonstrate nationalism through their input, these individuals must not have to support the cards based solely on this attribute. If this happens they would soon be out of business. It is for this reason that Mr. Abdool’s recent pronouncements to the boxers and all other stakeholders to render more purposeful contributions must not be taken casually. The GBBC boss has since promised to keep a tighter rein on the situation; ensuring that the input of the respective principals meets the required standards. This move ought to be applauded.
The ProAm initiative is Mr. Abdool’s brainchild but all members of the boxing community stand to benefit. It is, therefore, imperative that each individual aspire to contribute one hundred percent of their energy in order to make the programme work. Otherwise no one must bellyache if the initiative dies an eventual death.
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