The newly-appointed Boxing Commission of Fiji chairman Subhash Appana wants to usher in a new era of change in what he has described as a currently “haphazard” organisation.
Appana believes the commission requires a complete overhaul of its systems and processes in order for the sport to grow and flourish.
His appointment was confirmed on September 11, in a letter signed by the Minister for Youth and Sports Parveen Bala.
It comes amid criticism that the commission has not done enough to nurture boxers to reach their full potential and grow the sport.
Appana says the first item on his agenda is to streamline the BCF’s policies to reflect the principles of good governance and transparency, “with no room for interpretation.”
The ultimate goal is to take the sport to new heights, which he believes can be done with sustained and targeted improvements.
“At the moment the situation [within the commission] is haphazard,” he said.
“That’s the anti-thesis of governance. We want to have predictability in our systems and also make sure we have checklists for decisions, and there should be no room for interpreting requirements.”
Originally from Vuna in Taveuni, Appana is a senior lecturer in Management and Public Administration at the University of the South Pacific.
He has been involved in boxing for more than 20 years, and has written extensively about the sport in newspaper columns.
Some of his long-term goals include having a minimum of four boxing programmes a year, improving BCF’s international networking and using clinics to develop the sport at grassroots level.
There are also immediate concerns like ensuring Fijian boxers are not used as ‘sacrificial lambs’ in international promotions.
“A lot of our boxers are going overseas with, we are told, approval from BCF and decked in the first round,” Appana said.
“I do know that many of our boxers [who go for international fights] do not have enough experience. If we are sending boxers that do not have enough experience, we should make sure that their opponents also do not have enough experience.
“We should not be feeding our boxers as record-padders. And it should be vice-versa as well: If we are sending boxers to help overseas promotions, they should also be sending us boxers to help our promotions.”
Appana is planning to create a publicly-accessible online database of Fijians boxers that he believes will boost networking and help local fighters get more equitable competition.
It will be modelled on the popular record-keeping boxing website, BoxRec, with details such as the boxer’s name, photo, weight division and record published online.
He also has plans to form closer links with the Fiji Amateur Boxing Association in order to include more amateur fights in professional programmes.
“In any professional programme, there is a requirement to have at least one female fight and some exhibition amateur bouts,” he said.
“At this point in time, there is no formal linkage with amateur boxing and we need to get that formalised.”
Boxing in Fiji has been on the decline for some time.
In its heyday, the sport was as, if not more, popular than rugby, with fighters such as Sakaraia Ve and brothers Joy Ali and Junior Farzan attracting large crowds.
There is a sense that with the right professional guidance, quality facilities, opponents and regular competition, Fijians boxers can once again start competing on the international stage.
Appana believes the sport needs to be mainstreamed, rather than seen as something that is only done on the side.
“My vision is to gain Fiji boxing respectability; I want people to be able to see it in a positive manner,” he said.
“Boxing can provide a lot of opportunities for many of our people. I want boxing to have life in it and I think the sport needs leadership.”