Metro considers legal action against boxing promoter

MONEY RUMBLE: Former WBF featherweight champion Nozipho Bell and promoter Boniswa Lamani of Aphile Boxing Promotions
MONEY RUMBLE: Former WBF featherweight champion Nozipho Bell and promoter Boniswa Lamani of Aphile Boxing Promotions

Nelson Mandela Bay is considering taking legal action against Aphile Boxing Promotions’ Boniswa Lamani to recoup R300,000 the city paid towards then-World Boxing Federation champion Nozipho Bell’s title defence.

Sports, recreation, arts and culture acting executive director Charmaine Williams said in a report that advice had been sought from the legal services department after Bell failed to defend her title in the city by the extended deadline of March 1.

The boxer has since been stripped of her world featherweight title.

Williams  said Aphile Boxing Promotions’ chair Lamani had been informed of the potential breach of contract should Bell’s fight not take place in the metro by that date.

In November, Bell was in danger of being stripped of her title after then-mayor Mongameli Bobani failed to honour a promised R500,000 sponsorship for the world champion to stage a mandatory defence of her title on home soil.

The fight against Argentina’s Maria Elena Maderna was initially meant to take place on October 4 but was postponed to November 1.

It was shifted again, this time to November 15, but ultimately never took place.

Williams said due to the financial pressures faced by the promoter, it became apparent that the title defence would not take place.

She said WBF president Howard Goldberg had written that Bell should defend her title no later than March 1 2020 or face being stripped of her title.

“An urgent meeting was then convened by [the sports and recreation] directorate with Aphile Boxing Promotions and the president of the WBF in the presence of Nozipho Bell.

“Municipal officials raised concerns about the possibility of Bell not being able to defend her title and highlighted the implications relating to the use of sponsorship in terms of the [Municipal Finance Management Act].

“To address the concerns, Aphile Boxing Promotions provided the municipality with a written undertaking that Bell would defend her title by March 1, failing which the sponsorship provided by the municipality would be refunded.

“It is on the basis of this letter that [the] municipality honoured its obligation and paid the sponsorship fee to Aphile Boxing Promotions.”

In the report, Williams said the municipality was informed through an article published in the Herald on January 28 that Bell had secured a new promoter and would be relocating to Johannesburg.

The report was an item on the agenda of a sports, recreation, arts and culture committee meeting that was meant to take place on Friday, but was postponed.

Lamani said on Wednesday that her company had received no official communication from the municipality asking why Bell had not defended her title in the city.

Instead, she said, Aphile Boxing Promotions had approached the municipality earlier in the year to inform officials about Bell’s plans to leave the city and move to Johannesburg.

She said the municipality had released the R300,000 knowing that Bell’s title fight against Maderna would not be staged during the All Africa fight tournament, which took place in Port Elizabeth in November.

“The minimum amount to stage a world title fight is R1m,” Lamani said.

“That is why we went looking for funding from different departments and also from the private sector.

“We could not get the R500,000 that we had requested from the mayor’s office and instead were awarded R300,000 by the department of sport.

“With the money availed by the municipality, Goldberg said it would be impossible for the [promoter] to stage a WBF title fight because the fighters in the main bout would be underpaid and that would reflect badly on the WBF.”

Lamani said the R300,000 had been absorbed by pre-fight payments to Bell and her opponent as well as other tournament costs as requested by the WBF.

“Goldberg said he would be able to give Bell another extension on the grounds that the [promoter] would forward a down payment of R20,000 for Bell to keep her title until March 1,” Lamani said.

“Furthermore, he said we must stage the All Africa title fight, which was meant to be the main supporting bout to the Bell and Maderna fight, along with other bouts that were meant to take place on the day.”

Goldberg said on Wednesday that Bell had since been stripped of her belt.

“The title has been declared vacant,” he said.

“We gave her three extensions and they [Aphile Boxing Promotions] made a commitment to fight before March but it never happened.

“We had turned down three requests in Europe, which is a substantial amount of money that we have lost.

“The title is vacant and it will be fought for in Germany once the coronavirus has cleared.”  

Bay councillors had resolved during a meeting on April 9 2019 that the municipality support Bell financially and “otherwise”.

The motion of exigency was tabled by ANC councillor Lunga Nombexeza.