Bukiwe Nonina is a boxer who hails from South Africa’s spiritual home of the sport – The Eastern Cape. Anaconda, as she is known in the ring, is from the hometown of former SA President Thabo Mbeki Mbewuleni, and is the first South African female boxer to successfully defend her title five times.
But despite all her achievements, Nonina’s name didn’t ring many bells for most people outside boxing circles. She earns a fraction of what her male counterparts earn and is yet to receive the recognition enjoyed by male pugilists. Well, that was until recently when she was named the best female boxer of 2016 at the recent Boxing South Africa awards held in Durban.Anaconda received the award after beating Matshidiso Mokebisi on points in a South African female bantamweight title defence at Durban’s International Convention Centre in March. Nonina then defended her belt successfully by beating Simangele Hadebe on points, a performance which saw her become the first female boxer to successfully defend her title five times.
@MbalulaFikile And Beekay Nonina is part of these legends
S/O to my lil sis ?
— Dee Ka Faku (@deenonina1) January 27, 2017
Bukiwe Nonina we salute you. Representing iDutywa.
We see you. #SABoxingAwards
— Pharaoh Ntsinde (@faro_ntsinde) January 27, 2017
— otlamorata k2 mohube (@otlamoratak2) January 27, 2017
Although boxing in South Africa has been struggling in recent years, it is even tougher for female boxers whose trade does not appeal many audiences. Anaconda says she earns even less then half of what a male South African champion commands.
But it’s not just women, but all South African boxers that have struggled over the recent past as BSA has faced one financial challenge. The organisation was reportedly broke back in 2011, owing in excess of R8 million to the receiver of revenue. Indeed a number of SA boxers have had to hang up their gloves due to lack of funding and support in recent years. But Minister of Sports and Recreation Fikile Mbalula, announced the new CEO of BSA, Tsholofelo Lejaka, in May 2016 who has been tasked with turning the sport around – a process that has begun with overhauling of the associations and the identification and removal of unscrupulous promoters that don’t pay boxers monies owed to them. Mbalula also announced the return of boxing on our TV screens that will reach 1.3 million households who will be able to enjoy the TKO broadcaston SABC which is a good thing for all the boxing fans. R11 million was allocated to BSA for the 2016 financial year that went towards the South African National Amateur Boxing Organisation for open and junior boxing development, and a further R4.5 million for the development of 90 new clubs. Clearly all the right moves are being made to return boxing to it’s glory days of the eighties and early nineties. Whether or not we succeed, time will tell?
Financial constraints in boxing aren’t just a South African problem, rather a worldwide phenomenon where female bouts don’t headline as big events as their male counterparts. So what now for the aspiring Bukiwe Nonina’s of South Africa? It seems the human spirit knows no bounds, Nonina says she is far from being happy with the money she makes playing the sport but is proud of the work she does and for now, all she and her female counterparts can do is wait and hope for change as leaving the sport is not an option.