AT the outset, I would like to apologise to readers that this week we do not have an article totally focused on Citizenship and Belonging. Instead, it is being replaced by one on boxing in Fiji (interspersed with some crosscultural references) for a number of reasons.
One, boxing returns to Suva this weekend with a Gala Program at the National Gymnasium.
Two, the term of the previous Boxing Commission of Fiji (BCF) board has come to an end and a new board takes over from here. Three, whenever a change takes place in an organisation like BCF, a stocktake is needed.
This allows stakeholders to evaluate performance and set expectations for the future. Let us follow here the highs and lows, the achievements and misses of Fiji Boxing over the past three years.
A new board takes over
The new board took over on September 11, 2019 under controversial circumstances. It comprised the following members: Dr. Subhash Appanna (chairman/USP academic), Eroni Loganimoce (manager HR), Litiana Loabuka (CEO/Fiji Sports Council), Donny Yee (MD/Lami Kava) and Usman Ali Lale (West-based businessman and long-term boxing administrator).
Boxing had entered the doldrums and the public had begun to clamour for its revival. Earlier it had been fraught with controversies and the key task of the new board was to remove controversy from Fiji Boxing. In addition, BCF tasked itself with promoting, developing and mainstreaming boxing in Fiji.
The aim was to take Fiji boxing back to its glory days of the 1970s and 1980s.
Managing change has always been an exercise fraught with challenges. In this case, very few knew the chair who had largely been a researcher and academic. Few knew that in the 1980-90s, he had been an integral part of Shah’s Boxing Promotions where he had contributed as an advisor.
Few knew that he was closely linked to the Fiji Boxing Council when it was led by Bob Nair. FBC had nominated him to be on the Boxing Commission in 2000, but he declined because he had taken up a scholarship to study in Auckland.
Few knew that he had acted as time-keeper, ring announcer and judge in numerous programs. He had also been a keen observer of boxing with regular inputs in the local papers through his columns.
That person was me and now the task of straightening out and reviving Fiji boxing was staring at me in the face. When faced with these types of situations, a manager almost by prescription runs a quick diagnosis that helps analyse the nature and magnitude of the task at hand.
In this case, every stakeholder appeared to have an opinion, a grievance or an expectation of the new regime.
It helped greatly that some knew the chair personally like trainer Gyan Singh and retired boxers like Mosese Kavika, Waisiki Ligaloa, Sakaraia Ve and a smattering of others. Then there were a group that knew of the chair from stories that they had heard among their circles.
When I arrived at Prince Charles Park on October 25, 2019 for our first program, many wanted to know who I was and there were handshakes all around. I was heartened to note some ex-students among them
. A group of ex-Max ex-convicts also came to lend their support and quietly assured me that they stood behind me. When ex-heavyweight champion Mosese Kavika lifted me off the ground beside the ring, I knew I was firmly in place to do the job.
This, however, was just about familiarisations. A bigger problem was lurking right behind us as there had been no formal handover between the old and the new boards. This will be covered a little later in the following section; let me outline first what we saw as obvious problems that needed to be sorted out immediately.
A house in disarray
Aside from the fact that there was no record of tangible assets, it was difficult to ascertain who to approach for information about the past administration. A board member who had been in the previous board could not name who else was on that board with him.
There was no set schedule for board meetings. There were no clear answers on who the reigning champions were and when they had won their titles. There was no register of promoters, boxers, trainers, managers and clubs.
There was no list of certified boxing officials — referees, judges, etc. There were no contacts for any of these key personnel without whom boxing cannot exist. The BCF Act 2015 and the Operations Manual 2009 were two sets of rules that were used to guide boxing.
When faced with actual situations, these proved to be totally inadequate in guiding decision-making at the operational level. It is because of this that boxing appeared disorganised and unprofessional at the time.
These loopholes were also being abused by various influential people. When faced with this sort of chaos, the most effective and indispensable tool that is recommended universally is to set rules. Rules are necessary to bring order and focus amid chaos.
It is the aim of any manager and the expectation of every stakeholder that an organisation would behave predictably – that if set processes are followed, the outcome would be the same regardless of who the stakeholder is.
This is exactly what we did with BCF; rules were set after careful deliberations at board meetings. Some key places where rules were enacted to bring about order, professionalism and predictability were as follows:
- Weigh-in: it was noted that too many people crowded the platform on which weigh-ins were conducted. This involved promoters and their family and friends, supporters and friends of boxers, and almost anyone who could leap onto the platform. In one case, a boxer who has never been able to make weight was “assisted” by his mates to tip the scales at a lighter weight. This could not have happened if his entourage were prohibited from stepping onto the stage. It was also noticed that there was no trust in boxing officials conducting the weighin to call the weights ethically. Thus supporters were instructed to keep an eye on the scales. All this was removed through rules and the weigh-ins have become a simpler process.
- Corner-men: boxers used to arrive at the ring with an entourage of varying sizes. One was counted at 25. It appeared that boxers felt that the bigger the entourage the bigger their success. This was clearly a misplaced understanding because success is measured by their achievements in the ring, not in terms of how many people they surround themselves with. We also noted that skirmishes arose because of the supporters who could jump into the ring at any time as they were gathered right beside it. They could also provoke violence through jeering and other types of incitements. it t Moreover, wom- 2019 to September 2020, we had en and children populated these supporters, so the probability of imagined insults and protective reactions was extremely high. We cut this down to three cornermen in each corner with no extras.
- Ring announcer: it was noted that almost anyone could grab the mike and jump into the haloed boxing ring to make announcements. There was no real understanding and appreciation of the need to have professional announcers because this is one of the key things that uplifts the professional standards of the program as well as boxing in general. We made this a requirement amid threats from a legal counsel commissioned by one of the promoters. A firm rule has been set that formal announcements will be left to the ring announcer while the promoter can address the crowd as a promoter and nothing no access to funds because the banking signatories could not be changed without signatures from past officials. In 2022, we got no funds because we were suddenly faced with a requirement for audited accounts rather than acquittals. Up until then, we had been submitting acquittals, but were only told about the need for audited accounts at the very end of the 2021 financial year. The show went on because in 2019, one board member loaned BCF $11,000 and we sold a boxing ring that had been lying idle for some time. Furthermore, no administrative assistant was hired because of lack of funds even though $8000 was allocated for it. The chair took on all administrative duties and helped save $8000 per year for three years. This is how boxing was managed in Fiji with one allocation of $30,000 over a three-year span. else. Any other person wanting to The actual allocation should use the microphone has to seek official permission first.
As in any given situation where rules are introduced, there was negativity, resentment and outright hostility from the stakeholders.
We tried to explain the reasons for these through our FB page, but fake accounts were used to vehemently vilify the chair and BCF. We persisted and there appears to be an uneasy acceptance or at least an accommodation at this juncture.
We will persist with explanations during forthcoming stakeholder meetings. This is just a snapshot of what the Boxing Commission has been doing to uplift boxing in Fiji. Here, I have highlighted rules set to bring a chaotic house to order. Much more has been done.
Financial dire straits
For one year from September to September 2020, we had no access to funds because the banking signatories could not be changed without signatures from past officials. In 2022, we got no funds because we were suddenly faced with a requirement for audited accounts rather than acquittals. Up until then, we had been submitting acquittals, but were only told about the need for audited accounts at the very end of the 2021 financial year.
The show went on because in 2019, one board member loaned BCF $11,000 and we sold a boxing ring that had been lying idle for some time. Furthermore, no administrative assistant was hired because of lack of funds even though $8000 was allocated for it.
The chair took on all administrative duties and helped save $8000 per year for three years.
This is how boxing was managed in Fiji with one allocation of $30,000 over a three-year span.
The actual allocation should have been a total of $90,000 for the three years.
Stakeholders have been asking about development of boxing from the grassroots, this needs funds and much more is needed.
There is now a strategic plan in place and with better access to funding, boxing should climb to new heights. I hope this has provided some insights into the challenges of managing boxing in Fiji. More will be shared later.
• DR SUBHASH APPANNA has been writing on issues of historical and national significance. Here he shares his views on boxing as the Chairman of Boxing Commission of Fiji. The views expressed here are his alone and a chaotic house to order. Much not necessarily shared by this more has been done. newspaper or his employers firstname.lastname@example.org Financial dire straits For one year from September