Ex-Marian boxer Rozairo leaving no stone unturned | Sunday Observer

Ex-Marian boxer Rozairo leaving no stone unturned

30 July, 2023
Dunstan Rozairo (right) with IBA President Umar Kremlev
Dunstan Rozairo (right) with IBA President Umar Kremlev

There were many naysayers and pessimists who scoffed when Dubai-based Sri Lankan entrepreneur and events promoter Dunstan Rozairo staged the first ever professional boxing competition in Sri Lanka last year. The fifth edition of the ‘Countdown to the Middle East Crown’ series was held on November 26 at the Shangri La Hotel in Colombo.

The Sunday Observer boldly proclaimed that the stage has been set to make Colombo another Las Vegas for boxing. Most people laughed at the thought that Sri Lanka could attract top professionals of the sport to stage an international event.

Rozairo together with Sri Lanka’s long-serving boxing chief Dian Gomes ‘shook up the world’ to coin a quote from ‘The Greatest’ of them all Muhammad Ali when the International Boxing Association (IBA) president Umar Kremlev came here following the ‘Champions Night’ held in Phuket, Thailand.

Sri Lanka’s economic woes were forgotten with stakeholders in the sport and the high and mighty in the land falling head over heels in love with the amiable young Russian billionaire who has promised to herald a new era for boxing and sport in general in this tiny island in the Indian Ocean.

It is a pipe dream for Sri Lankans to turn professional in any sport apart from cricket. However, Rozairo not only opened the doors for amateur Sri Lanka boxers to earn a living from the sport but was in the IBA team that made a historic tour of the country to explore opportunities of staging more international competitions and setting up training camps here.

“Professional boxing is something Sri Lanka did not have for so many years. They have been competing at the highest level in amateur boxing. Unfortunately we did not have professional boxing in Sri Lanka. Now what I am trying to do is trying to come in and team up with the amateur federation (Boxing Association of Sri Lanka) to try to promote boxing and take it to the next level,” said Rozairo, founder of DJMC in Dubai and dubbed the Don King of the Middle East.

Rozairo aims to work in collaboration with the national governing body for the sport in Sri Lanka to promote professional boxing.

“You cannot do without amateur boxing. That is the grass root level where they get the initial training and come up. Professional boxing is a very competitive sport. It’s not like being an amateur. It starts from four rounds and it can go to 15 rounds,” said Rozairo, who believes that Sri Lanka can produce world champions in the sport.

“We have the talent. Just that we need to create this opportunity. By creating this opportunity, you will have world champions that can come out of Sri Lanka. One world champion will change the entire country. This is what we are looking at,” said Rozairo who is a product of St. Mary’s College, Dehiwela which ruled the roost in the schools boxing arena during the 1960s and 1970s and produced several national boxing stars such as Chavo de Kauwe who won a silver medal at the Asian Boxing Championships in 1973.

“They finished their careers because they did not have opportunities to go to the next level. For me boxing is a passion. I have seen what has happened to these people. I don’t want it to happen in the future.

Sri Lanka has got talent. So let us give them that opportunity,” said Rozairo who has also been inspired by the rags to riches life story of Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao and former eight-division world champion.

“If I can do something to help them. That’s what I’m here for. I’m teaming up with IBA to develop the amateur level. Without amateur boxing, I cannot have professional boxing. I need to have good strong amateur boxers so I can take them to the next level,” he stressed.

On the significance of the visit by IBA president and his team, Rozairo said: “I wanted them to come here and support Sri Lanka in strengthening our amateur boxers. For me I cannot do professional boxing here if I do not have a good amateur team. He (Kremlev) coming here will help support amateurs and he will also help us do the professional (events) also in the future.”

He was also pleased with the cooperation and support given by government officials for boxing.

“The minister (Roshan Ranasinghe) is supporting us. He offered us land in the upcountry to develop a good training camp there. I will discuss with IBA and see whether they can support us or speak to other investors. We need a good training camp for boxers to do high altitude training,” said Rozairo who revealed that the next edition of the ‘Countdown to the Middle East Crown’ series will be in Melbourne Australia on November 11.

“We are planning to do the WBC ‘Care’ belt as a charity event because there are boxers who have got injured due to boxing. We need to help them and take care of them right around the world. Then we are planning to do a Boxing Series in India. A League competition where you bring Sri Lankan, Indian and boxers from right around the world to compete,” he said.

“India is a huge market and we need to collaborate with other countries. That is the exposure our country needs. We need to give our boxers international exposure. Our kids are very talented and they have got a big heart,” said Rozairo, who is confident professional boxing will be a success in Sri Lanka.

“There were a lot of hurdles but we have done it (the November 26 event) by the grace of God. More events will be coming to Sri Lanka. Problem is we need better venues,” he added. Rozairo wants to see boxing revived at St Mary’s but wants to see boxing nurtured in existing schools before expanding.

“There are 100 schools in amateur boxing. They don’t have enough equipment. We need to facilitate existing schools and then expand,” he said.

He aims to work with local stakeholders as a team to develop the sport.

“We don’t want to work against each other. We want to work as a team. As a team we are stronger. We have to come to see how we can help each other as a team and grow. If we try to pull in different directions it won’t work. Team work is important,” he said. (AO)