A stalwart of Zimbabwean boxing

HARARE - Zimbabwean boxing might be the doldrums, but Ed Hammond is proud of the contributions he has made to the sport in the last four decades.

64-year-old Hammond contributed immensely to boxing being, at its prime in this country, the Zimbabwe’s second most popular sport after football.

These days, boxing’s popularity is dwindling, with the sport reeling under lack of capital injection. Government has completely turned a blind-eye on the sport’s needs.

Hammond, who recently resigned from the Zimbabwe National Boxing Board of Control in protest over lack of government support, rose from the amateur ranks in his heyday to become a national champion.

His journey began at Braeside Boxing Club aged 12 years. As an apprentice, he had already won three major titles; Mashonaland, Midlands and the Rhodesia amateur championships.

With the promise he had shown at junior level, young Ed graduated to the senior ranks and won the national amateur title consecutively in 1969 and 1970.

His keenness on rugby and athletics, however, would slow down his boxing progress.

After that early success, he was side-tracked by the other sporting codes only to return to boxing in 1975 and immediately caught the attention of national coaches.

“I was selected to represent Rhodesia in 1975 after two years out of the sport,” Hammond tells the Daily News this week.

Once again he decided to return to rugby and long distance running following his return to boxing.

In his career as an amateur boxer, Hammond had a healthy record of 51 fights, 47 wins and four loses.

But soon after independence, Hammond would return to the sport that gave him fame.

“My love of boxing was too strong and I was lured back to boxing when I accepted the offer to train at Raylton Amateur Boxing Club in 1980,” he says.

“Six months later, I became Mashonaland coach and then Zimbabwe Amateur coach in 1982. I also became a qualified referee and a qualified judge and served as the chairman of Referee’s and Judges’ Association as well.”

During his time as the Zimbabwe Amateur coach, Hammond had a successful career, shaping the paths of many boxers who came through the ropes.

At the 75th Dutch Open Championships in 1987, Hammond’s fighter, Ndaba Dube, lost in the final under controversial circumstances.

“In the final Dube fought a guy from East Germany, who had come directly from the World Championships in Reno Nevada where he won a World Silver medal,” Hammond recalls.

“Dube lost on a split points decision in a very controversial decision which was loudly booed by the crowd.”

During the same year, at the Nairobi All-Africa Games, Hammond’s two boxers, Dube and Duke Chinyadza, won the silver and bronze medals.

There was more success for Hammond and his fighter at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand, where Chinyadza won a bronze medal while Nokuthula Tshabangu won the silver medal after losing to Wayne McCullough of England in the final.

“This was the greatest performance for an amateur boxing in the history of Zimbabwe,” says Hammond.

“Again Nokuthula lost a close decision to Wayne McCullough, who went on to win a silver medal at the Olympic Games and when he turned professional he was voted one of the top ten pound-for-pound fighters of the decade.”

Hammond is still nostalgic when he recounts events in Auckland that year.

“To watch the Zimbabwe flag being raised in front of huge audiences and to millions on TV was without a doubt the proudest moments of my life,” he says.

Hammond, however, bemoans the lack of government support which has resulted in the sport dying a natural death following the huge strides made in the 80s and 90s.

“The boxers received no assistance personally for the trips and all the vitamins, supplements and food for the training camps came from me and some boxing loving supporters,” he says.

“After the resounding success at the Commonwealth Games, I was convinced state assistance would be forthcoming. Sadly it was not to be, and all these great fighters did not get anything.”

Hammond also blasted the current Sport Ministry’s failure to honour WBC International welterweight champion Charles Manyuchi.

“I felt that without a voice or funds we could not assist the boxers that were entrusted to help and I resigned from the board three weeks ago,” he says.

“The treatment of Manyuchi is appalling and it is a very bitter pill to swallow. I do not feel comfortable sitting on the Board of Control when I am not able to assist Charles, who has brought great honour to Zimbabwe and to boxing.”

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