WINDHOEK – Yesterday’s shabbily arranged press conference was hallmarked by nothing but a graft of conflicting and controverting versions of what really led to the sudden postponement of the eagerly awaited mega fight between Harry ‘The Terminator’ Simon and Vikapita ‘Beast Master’ Meroro.
H.S Onkugo Promotions, owned by Namibia’s multiple former world champion Simon, yesterday convened a press conference at a local hotel in Windhoek to try and provide clarity as to what led to the postponement of the 10-round non-title fight between Simon and Meroro.
Local matchmaker-cum-boxer Smokey Hilongwa, who was speaking on behalf of H.S Onkugo Promotions, said the fight’s failure to see the light of day should solely and squarely be blamed on the Namibia Professional Boxing and Wrestling Control Board (NPBWCB).
Hilongwa said that as promoters of the fight they followed all required procedures and also submitted all required documents to the boxing board to have the fight sanctioned well ahead of time, but for some strange reason the board kept bringing up all sorts of “technical excuses and funny requirements in what appears to be deliberate efforts to sabotage the fight”.
Amongst the many “technical excuses and funny requirements” the board advanced to Hilongwa, they were told that Simon had to undergo a compulsory Computed Axial Tomography (CAT) scan before the board could sanction the fight.
Although mostly popular amongst European boxers and boxing boards and not yet that common in African boxing, the CAT scan is a rapid 5-20 minute painless exam that combines the power of X-rays with computers to produce 360-degree, cross-sectional views of the body to image bone, soft tissue and blood vessels all at the same time, to provide neurologists and neurosurgeons with accurate details of any brain disease or brain injury.
Another aspect that also led to the deadlock between the board and H.S Onkugo Promotions was the weight issue of the two boxers. Hilongwa said both boxers agreed to fight at 92.7kg (which is almost cruiserweight) but at the last weigh-in done by the boxing board Meroro was still slightly overweight at 99kg and Simon was at 88kg during the same week.
Based on that, the board apparently refused to sanction the fight as it felt Meroro was too overweight and thus can’t fight Simon who weighs 88kg.
Conflicting and controverting versions
With more heated questions pouring in from journalists, Hilongwa, Simon and Meroro started narrating contradicting versions of what actually happened – more worrying or rather embarrassing were Simon and Hilongwa who are both from the same camp.
As confusion and contradiction heavily further reigned, it slowly became clear that the board was not to be blamed for shelving the fight but Simon and Meroro both failed to reach a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to have the fight take place as a catchweight contest.
In boxing, a catchweight fight is a term to describe a weight limit that does not fall in line with the traditional limits for weight classes.
In such cases, especially when one boxer is overweight as in the case of Meroro and Simon, fighters are allowed to have side negotiations that will allow the fight to go ahead, freestanding the required weight limit, and such negotiations are done prior to the weigh-ins, which are conducted a day before the fight.
It also became clear that Meroro and Simon, especially Simon since he is the one promoting the fight, did not bother to consider making the fight a catchweight bout as it was anyway going to be a non-title/exhibition fight – meaning Simon as promoter and fighter knows why he didn’t entertain such an option if the fight was ever going to be in the interest of Namibians, as they had earlier claimed.
The new opponent
Also at yesterday’s conference, Hilongwa announced that plans were at an advanced stage to bring on board a certain Tanzanian opponent to replace Meroro if the board doesn’t sanction the fight in weeks to come. He also said the Tanzanian had agreed in principle to Simon, but only on condition that he is accorded three weeks to prepare.
Journalists then asked that if H.S Onkugo Promotions is prepared to give the unknown Tanzanian three weeks to prepare, why not give Meroro those three weeks to reach the required weight and then have the fight take place, but no concrete answer was given as Hilongwa fumbled to answer and Simon said he will first have to consult his trainer in South Africa about such a decision.
Local fans in attendance yesterday felt that it’s only logical, and it also made commercial sense, for Simon to fight Meroro as opposed to an unknown Tanzanian, hence their appeal for Simon to give Meroro three weeks to shed weight as opposed to fighting a new opponent.
Boxing board explains its decision
Responding to Hilongwa’s claims yesterday, NPBWCB chairman Ellision Hijarunguru said Hilongwa and H.S Onkugo Promotions were being economical with the truth and deliberately misleading the public, adding: “Those guys are lying, in fact after noticing Meroro’s weight issues I was the one who advised Harry to make the fight a catchweight bout as opposed to postponing it, as it was not going to be in the public’s interest. A few days later he (Simon) called me saying if Meroro doesn’t make it to 92.7kg, then he will not fight and will rather consider another opponent. So how can they claim that we sabotage their fight? In fact, Meroro was willing to forfeit a percentage of his purse money to fight Harry at catchweight since he (Meroro) was the one overweight, but Simon refused that offer. If the fight was going to be a non-title 10-rounder, why then did he refuse such a lucrative opportunity? Simon must tell the nation the whole truth because he knows why he doesn’t want to fight Meroro.”