Q & A: Berman on 40 years, the ‘Money’ fight and more

 

Golden Gloves celebrates 40 years of being involved in boxing this month. Congratulations. What are your three best memories?
‘Charlie Weir versus Bushy Bester. I couldn’t believe it; I knew nothing. I saw people coming over the hill to buy tickets.

‘Another absolute highlight was Welcome Ncita beating Fabrice Benichou for the IBF title in Israel in 1990. We had our first world champion after 12 years! Welcome was a real credit to the game.

‘And then there was Lennox Lewis versus Hasim Rahman. The enormity dawned on me when Madiba called from Lesotho to say how proud he was. He was pleased the boxing had taken the focus off the bad news on the front pages.’

What were your impressions of DeeJay Kriel recently?
‘He shows a lot of promise, but has a way to go. If he had power, he’d be a real force. I do believe he’ll go very far in the division. He was very impressive. I must also acknowledge Colin Nathan, his trainer, who always brings his fighters in in great shape.’

There was a bump in the road with Max Maslov withdrawing from his IBO title fight against Kevin Lerena. How much more dangerous do you believe Youri Kalenga is?
‘Much more. He’s very wily and experienced. He won’t be intimidated at all, having campaigned extensively overseas.’

What are your thoughts on Mayweather v McGregor?
‘I know all will watch it. I won’t. It brings both codes into disrepute. It’s greed, that’s all. I can’t believe this was sanctioned; a guy who’s never laced on a glove against one of the all-time greats. It’s a sad indictment on all involved.’

A far better fight is Canelo v GGG in September. Who wins, and why?
‘I love GGG. But I’ve seen things in the last few fights that indicate age is catching up with him. The speed isn’t there. For the first time he’s coming up against someone a bit special. It’s a great fight, I thinkCanelo could win. That’s a judgment call – not from the heart.’

You’ve pulled off a coup with Hekkie Budler challenging Milan Melindo in the Philippines. Presumably it’s a risk versus reward dynamic?
‘Yes, the rewards could be very big if Hekkie pulls it off. In securing the fight, Golden Gloves had to give two options in favour of the Filipino promoter, so maybe as IBF champion we won’t have the privilege of promoting Hekkie. Hopefully this will cement his legacy.’

What’s the latest on the Super Four tournaments, which have been warmly received?
‘The super-middleweight event has been put to bed. The first round will take place October 21 with Lee Dyer in a rematch against Alfonso Tissen and Ryno Liebenberg against Patrick Mukala.

‘The featherweights have been a bit more challenging. Lusando Komanisi turned down the opportunity to win a major purse, so we go on without him.

‘Azinga Fuzile is in, plus Simphiwe Vetyeka, Lerato Dlamini and Tshifhiwa Munyai. This could be brilliant.’

Who is the best young fighter in SA right now?
‘From what I’ve seen, it has to be Azinga Fuzile. He looks to have the best chance of going furthest. Thulani Mbenge isn’t far behind.’

What can fight fans look forward to from Golden Gloves in the next 12-18 months?
‘Plenty. A lot will depend on Kevin Lerena. We’ve got outstanding talent – Budler, Konkco, Kriel,  Dlamini, Mbenge, and others – and will continue to push for opportunities. Plus, we’ve extended contracts with SuperSport and Emperors Palace.’