Legendary Christodoulou Lauds Local Boxing

Internationally acclaimed boxing referee and judge Stellianos Christodoulou, better known in boxing circles the world over as Stan Christodoulou, says professional boxing has grown at an astonishing pace in Namibia since the dawn of independence and singled out the Namibian Professional Boxing amp Wrestling Control Board and the country’s leading promoter Nestor Tobias for kudos and a job well done.

Armed with an impressive resume of involvement in 207 world title bouts in the paid ranks, as referee or judge, accumulated in 42 different countries on six continents Christodoulou is among the world’s most decorated boxing personalities. He is the man accredited for getting professional boxing off the ground in 1996 when he assisted the inaugural chairman of the board Dr Fanuel Tjingaete and his team to establish a professional body in Namibia. “Negotiations started with aocate Louis Muller, who was heading the South West Africa (SWA) Boxing Commission at the time. Discussions continued when Dr Tjingaete was appointed chairman, which led to subsequent workshops and brainstorming sessions alternating between Johannesburg and Windhoek,” reveals Christodoulou, during an exclusive interview with New Era Sports in Ondangwa last weekend.

He believes professional boxing in Namibia has grown in leaps and bounds and has exceeded all expectations. “I’m very impressed with Namibian boxing and of course the high standard displayed by Namibian boxers. However, there is a need to organize and conduct more seminars to assess local referees’ performance in order to get them to international level.” He expressed concerns over what he termed a recurring habit of local boxers going into important title bouts above the required weight limit. “Professional boxers should never be overweight during the weigh-in process. Boxing handlers must keep a close eye on their [fighters], because boxing is a tough game that needs commitment and dedication from all stakeholders.” Christodoulou also reserved praise for the Namibian government through its hands on approach and involvement in overseeing and ensuring the smooth running of the sport, adding that boxing authorities should consider themselves extremely lucky to have such understanding and generous partners. “If one looks at the number of Namibian boxers holding Pan African titles from credible international bodies, it’s a sign of progress,” according Christodoulou.

After presiding over a staggering 207 world championship fights, which included phenomenal boxers the likes of Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, Manny Pacquiao and Oscar de la Hoya, he says it all keeps coming back to a balmy night in Johannesburg’s Rand Stadium exactly 40 years ago. Christodoulou was the 3rd man in the ring when Arnold Taylor and Mexico’s Romeo Anaya went to war. It was his first major assignment as referee for the world bantamweight championship that attracted 20-thousand adoring fans. On four occasions, the bloodied Taylor dragged himself off the canvas, but in the 14th round he summoned his final reserves and crushed a desperate right against Anaya’s jaw that sent him reeling, rendering him unconscious on the canvass. Born in Brixton Stellianos Christodoulou would have had no idea what his life held in store for him in this neck of the African woods. The son of Cypriot immigrants, he fought successfully a dozen times as an amateur, but broke his hand and that was it. Not that he was not prone to putting the smack down outside the ring, since he once brought traffic to a halt outside the old Roxy Bioscope in Brixton where he and a local Dutch boy rolled up their sleeves and got busy. “They made us tough on the west side of town,” he laughs, as he recalls the incident seared in his mind. Aged 17, he attended a boxing tourney in Standerton where some match officials failed to arrive and Christodoulou, never short of confidence, put up his hand. He judged eight fights that night and was soon handed his license. He hot-footed it all over the country, judging the likes of Eddie Ludick, Hottie van Heerden and Johnny Wood. Two years later he refereed his first professional fight and 3-thousand-odd fights later, Christodoulou is still refereeing and not to mention the countless judging assignments he has packed in around the world in the past 50 years. A pair of presidential awards followed from FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela respectively, attesting to his excellence. His enduring class was never better illustrated than in 1999 when Evander Holyfield fought Lennox Lewis for the heavyweight championship. Two of the judges went against the overwhelming view that Lewis had dominated the contest – the fight was controversially declared a draw – with only Christodoulou turning in a card that reflected the truth. It was a scandalous result, but the South African official was lauded internationally for getting it right. ‘I was just doing my job,’ he explained drily. It is safe to say that no other African has made such a amazing contribution to international boxing as Christodoulou has done.

Source : New Era