In a country that is supposedly big on empowering women, spare a thought for female boxers who are seemingly nothing more than afterthoughts, if not irritants.
To be a female professional boxer in South Africa, according to former world champion Sharadene Fortuin, is tantamount to being jobless.
“I’ve not had a fight since December 2018. There is just not enough fights for us and I hope Boxing South Africa (BSA) and the corporate world listen to our plight and ensure we get some action.”
Fortuin is a talented fighter who boasts a splendid professional record of 11-1-1.
She has won both the IBO intercontinental and world titles as well as the WBA Pan African belt.
“But I was stripped off of all those titles because of inaction. I never got to defend them because there was no promoter to stage fights for me. One promoter wanted me to defend a title for way less than what I had earned when I challenged for it and I refused.
“Sometimes I just feel like we are being undermined as female boxers.”
Her stablemate at VIP Boxing Academy Bukiwe Nonina, a former world champion herself, concurs: “When it comes to us (female boxers) the promoters say we are expensive but they pay the boys more for doing the same thing as we do.
“And what has tended to happen is that because we do not get international fights we end up having to fight the same boxer over and over.”
Speaking from their gym in Benoni yesterday, the duo, who have been in the ring against each other before, told the story of the renowned Noni Tenga who has been in five fights against Mapule Ngubane.
“It has become some sort of a joke that those two are always fighting each other and Noni always wins. But that is what it is,” Nonina said.
The duo said they find it strange that politically the country is quick to pride itself in the fact that there is “50/50 representation in parliament” but those women in power see nothing wrong with what is happening in sports.
“They are killing us,” Nonina lamented
“For most of us now we have to look for fights overseas. But that is risky because we are ring rusty and often we go there knowing that we have no chance of winning the fight. But rather lose and make some money than sit here doing nothing.”
Their worry about the inactivity is that it leads to them falling down the rankings and leaves them having to accept a pittance from promoters.
“We’re in the top 10 world rankings for most of the governing bodies. But the more inactive you are, the quicker you drop out and that creates problems because you cannot challenge for world titles and that means you cannot make money to take care of yourself and family,” Fortuin said.
She explained that due to inactivity some very good boxers are being lost to the sport.
“A lot of boxers gain weight and there are many who have even fallen pregnant and decided to just become housewives. And we are talking about some seriously talented boxers from out there in the Eastern Cape.
A lot of us have been lucky to get opportunities to fight outside the province and even out of the country. But it is getting very tough these days to secure fights.