Meet top Nam boxing referees, judges

• By Michael Uugwanga

BEING a boxing referee or judge can often be a thankless career as many referees-cum-judges are always at the centre of criticism.

Confidente Sport this week caught up with the country’s renowned boxing referees who also double up as judges, to talk about their journey into boxing.

Local boxing has two female referees/judges, Patema Kandjengo Nakanyala and Hilary Kasete, but unfortunately they hardly get the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

Leizy Nainda is today one of the most celebrated and highly rated referees, not only in the country but also beyond the borders.

Nainda is currently a programming and production manager at Radio Energy.

“I became a referee/judge in 2006 and did my professional boxing course in 2005. I registered and licensed myself with the Namiba Professional Boxing and Wrestling Control Board since February 2006 as a professional boxing referee and judge. Before I was a boxer in the super flyweight and in the bantamweight division.

“I have officiated top titles, notably the International Boxing Organisation Federation (IBO) fight between Nkosinathi Joyi and Ayanda Ndulani (all South Africans) in South Africa, the International Boxing Federation (IBF) Inter-continental Bantam title between Ludumo Lamati (SA) versus Alexis Boureima Kabore (Burkina Faso) in East London, the IBO international Bantam title between Jonas Mateus (Namibia) and Nasibu Ramadhani (Tanzania) in Nelson Mandela Bay, and the fight IBF Inter-continental title bout between Tsiko Mulovhedzi (SA) and Laszlo Toth (Hungary) in SA,” said Nainda.

Another well known ref-cum-judge is Seblon Shimwafeni who has been in the game since 2003 and is a soldier by profession.

“Boxing is my hobby and I don’t want to be far from boxing at all.  I am a former Namibian bantam weight champion. I represented Namibia at many boxing events. There are not too many challenges in boxing as one just needs to concentrate. The biggest title to date that I officiated is the fight between two local lads Immanuel Kalishimwe versus Fillimon Nghitenanye,” he said.

Joshua Toivo, a teacher by profession, has been boxing since he was 10 years old, starting at Rossing Mine boxing club in Arandis, which saw him become the Namibian National Amateur Champion in 1993.

He learnt his boxing skills from the late Abiut Kanambunga.

“I became a referee and judge in 1996 for the Far Northern Amateur Boxing Federation in Oshana region before I joined the professional referees/judges this year. I grew up as a boxer and therefore I decided to become a referee to help continue guiding our young boxers in the ring and in their everyday life. I just enjoy refereeing and judging. I have a local certificate from the Namibian boxing federation,” said Toivo.

Ricky Tshabalala needs no introduction and is one of the most feared and respected referees in the country.

“I have been in the game since 1985 when I was fighting for Rossing Mine, when I was still very young. I retired from boxing in 1995. I only joined the professional referees and judges in 2004 after I underwent a boxing course. So, I have 17 years of professional experience.”

Another famous referee-cum-judge is Timo Haikonda who scooped the best referee award at the Namibia Sport Awards in 2012.

Haikonda has been with NamPol for the past 19 years and between 2004 and 2019 served as a member of the executive committee of NamPol National Sport Council.

“I was a boxer since I was 16 years in my home town of Tsumeb with the support of the mines as we benefited a lot in the 80s. I was inspired by my former fellow students in Tsumeb such as Nestor Tobias, Lucias Hangula, and Frans Aluteni as we were all boxers at the time. During my boxing years I was coached by the likes of Shimbuli, and Shigwedha Eric Van Tonder who was the sport coordinator of Tsumeb Corporation Ltd (TCL) Mine.

“It was between 1992 and 1995 when I realised that my boxing career was not going well due to other personal commitments such as family and studies that is when I decided to quit as a boxer and joined refereeing and judging.

“In 1995, I was nominated by the National Federation then under the leadership of Kelly Nghixulifwa to attend the International Boxing Association R/J course in Botswana. I am the first Namibian to obtain the international diploma specialising in refereeing and judging,” said Haikonda.