JOHANNESBURG – On Friday 11 July the Sowetan newspaper broke the story that current WBF African heavyweight champion, Zimbabwean Elvis “Bulawayo Bomber” Moyo, has been banned from boxing in South Africa due to his competing as an MMA (mixed martial arts) athlete.
EFC president Cairo Howarth shares his thoughts on what he sees to be an unfortunate situation, fuelled by misinformation.
“I was surprised to read the article,” Howarth said.
“Elvis has fought for us on three occasions and has proven himself to be a highly professional athlete, and a fan favourite with his incredible boxing skills.
“We contracted him with the understanding that he would continue his boxing career when he was done competing at EFC, which from our point of view is beneficial to everyone.”
The article outlined alleged safety concerns as the chief motivator behind the ban. The article also suggested that post fight medical monitoring in MMA is not up to standard, resulting in athletes competing with potentially harmful injuries.
“The reasoning put forward in the article is based on incorrect information,” Howarth said.
“Extensive research conducted in various countries has shown that statistically MMA is at least as safe as boxing, if not more so. One of the reasons is that MMA has no standing ten count.
“There are also generally less head strikes due to kicks to the legs and body, and the majority of the bout is often grappling based.
“Athlete’s safety is our top priority,” Howarth said.
“We are continually evolving to make sure our athletes receive the best care, and fight under the most professional conditions possible.”
When telephoned for comment, Moyo himself revealed that he had not been made aware of the ban until he was told about the article by a friend.
“I chose to fight for EFC because, as the African WBF heavyweight champion, I am being offered very few boxing fights,” he explained.
“MMA is a fast growing combat sport and I want to test my skills against the best.
“I’m sad to hear about this ruling,” he added.
“I have given everything I’ve got to boxing. All I want to do is compete and earn a good living for my family. MMA is a great opportunity for me and I’m very happy to be competing for EFC. I suppose we’ll see where my boxing career goes from here.”
Internationally, athletes crossing over between different combat codes is common practice, with numerous professional boxers having competed in the MMA arena, and vice-versa.
“I think it’s good for both sports to have athletes competing in multiple disciplines,” top EFC bantamweight contender and former world Muay Thai champion Irshaad Sayed said in an online interview.
“MMA is a growing sport and it’s good that high level boxing athletes join various MMA promotions.
“It’s also good in reverse. In many ways, people are losing interest in boxing and having MMA athletes boxing brings some hype with it.
“Although a young code, MMA has recently been rated as the third most watched sport on the African continent,” Howarth said.
“I believe Boxing South Africa’s ruling on Moyo has been made because of inaccurate information about the sport.
“We look forward to working with Boxing SA in a way that will mutually benefit the many highly talented athletes working under both our banners.”