By; AYO OJEDOKUN, Lagos
Former National and African Lightweight champion, Joe Lasisi has said that unless Nigeria develops a new boxing culture, the pugilist game will continue to witness dwindling fortune in the country.
Lasisi who is not happy that Nigeria is now playing second fiddle in the sports told our correspondent that the country must go back to the basics in order to re-position the game that gave it glory in the past and enabled her have many World, Commonwealth and African champions in various weight categories.
” It’s quite unfortunate that Nigeria which in the past was known for producing quality boxers both at the amateur and paid ranks is now nowhere to be found in the game”, began Lasisi who was known as ‘Smoking Joe’ during his illustrious boxing career.
” Apart from few Nigerian boxers in the Diaspora, who are fighting in the colours of their adopted countries, we cannot lay claim to any of our boxer that is ruling the game right now. or are top contenders in the various boxing bodies whether at the WBC, WBA, IBO, WBO or IBF.
” The amateur cadre is also not different because these days Nigerian pugilists are struggling to pick Olympics and Commonwealth qualifiers which is an anomaly and must be corrected before its too late.
The one time No 1 contender to the WBA Lightweight title held then by Vigil Hills of the United States of America, explained that for the sports to regain its lost glory in the country, concerted efforts must be made for aggressive grassroots development of the game and re- introduction of regional and national boxing championships like the Eagle belt of old where talents could be discovered and nurtured to stardom.
” I’ ve said it several times that we need proper grassroots development of the game as was done in our own time. There must also be regional and national championships where talent would be discovered while coaches must be sent on refresher courses to up date their knowledge of the game.
” Although, there is now a newly introduced boxing league which was introduced by some people in partnership with the Nigeria Boxing Federation (NBF) but this must be sustained and those behind it encouraged morally and financially to enable them succeed”, concluded the former Custom officer.