EL fighter left high and dry
After much fanfare, the dream of East London female boxer Leighandre Jegels to fight in Saudi Arabia next month has crashed.
The Saudi kingdom reportedly scrapped the participation of women in the tournament.
Jegels was already in Saudi Arabia with her trainer Mhikiza Myekeni having flown there last weekend to participate in promotional tours and documentaries aimed at marketing the tournament which will be headlined by British boxer and four-time world champion Amir Khan in Jeddah on July 12.
Khan will face Indian boxer Neeray Goyat in a lucrative welterweight fight said to be paying him $8m (R118m).
Jegels was to face Indian boxer Asha Roka in a junior-bantamweight female bout which was to become the first female bout in the historic conservative country.
Organisers flew Jegels and Roka to the country to participate in a month-long marketing drive.
However when alerted about a female bout being featured in the tournament, the Saudi kingdom, which reportedly funds the event, allegedly revoked the move saying women should not be involved in boxing, wrestling or any aggressive sport.
The scrapping of the bout has left Jegels devastated after working tirelessly to be in shape, including roping in WBO world bantamweight champion Zolani Tete to help her, said Mla Tengimfene of All Winners Boxing Club where the boxer and Tete train.
The 25-year-old unbeaten female star was expected to return home on Monday night.
Jegels had not fought since August 2017 and the bout against Roka was expected to relaunch her international boxing career.
Tengimfene could not say if the exciting and talented fighter would be scheduled another bout in the near future.
“I think we will sit down and review the whole debacle,” he said.
The decision to scrap the female bout is expected to draw heavy criticism from the sporting fraternity and deal a blow to the Saudi kingdom’s move to change its sporting image and break the stereotypes.
Khan has also received criticism in the sporting fraternity for agreeing to take the bout in a country accused of oppressive human rights.
However, the Brit argued that he could not turn down such a lucrative purse.
Boxing even for men has just been accepted in Saudi Arabia with the World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight final between English boxers Callum Smith and George Groves in February this year being the first major international event to be held there.