By Wimbo Satwiko
Chris John has been on top for almost nine straight years, and he feels lonely.
Since taking the World Boxing Association featherweight title, back in 2003, few Indonesian boxers have had a shot at a world title, leaving Chris the only one standing at the top.
Muhammad Rachman is the only other local boxer to briefly hold a world title since 2003. Rachman won the International Boxing Federation minimumweight crown by beating Daniel Reyes in 2004 and held it until he lost it to Florante Condes three years later.
Last year, at 39 years old, Rachman won the World Boxing Council minimumweight belt with a stunning ninth-round knockout over defending champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng in Bangkok. But that lasted only one fight as another Thai boxer, Pornsawan Porpramook, beat Rachman in Jakarta just three months later.
Chris said the poor performance of Indonesian boxers on the world scene was the result of an almost nonexistent local boxing scene, where he honed his skills and earned experiences.
“From what I’ve seen, I think the local boxing scene is going nowhere. You see fewer local events each year,” Chris told the Jakarta Globe by phone from Perth, Australia, on Saturday.
Chris, 32, has been training at Harry’s Gym, in Perth, since last month for his fight against Japan’s Shoji Kimura in Singapore. The bout is scheduled for May 5.
Chris may be right. The local professional boxing scene is considered to be at its lowest point right now. Events by local promoters are rare, while only two TV stations have regular local boxing programs.
During a stretch that started in the 1990s and ran into the early 2000s, boxing was always one of the highest-rated shows, and had a place on every TV station.
Chris urged local promoters to invest more in boxing.
“If we could get more local boxing events, it would be good for boxers,” he said. “They could sharpen their skills in the fight game, and gain more experience. They could get better and that would entice spectators to come and watch.
“If more fans came to watch the fights, promoters and investors would put more money into boxing events That will rejuvenate the country’s boxing scene.”
Chris, also known as the Dragon, himself earned recognition by fighting regularly on Indosiar’s “Gelar Tinju Profesional” show.
One of his most famous and most-talked about fights was when he battled rising star Muhammad Alfaridzi.
Chris was knocked down twice in the first round, and Alfaridzi went down twice in the 11th. Alfaridzi went down again in the 12th round, and was counted out.
The Dragon, though, still has high hopes for the sport’s future in the country.
“If we have more champions, boxing will blossom again. I hope that it will happen in the near future,” he said. “We have Cino [Daud Yordan] and Nouldy [Manakane] who will fight for world titles soon. I believe they have a good chance.”
Daud, 24, will fight for the International Boxing Organization’s vacant featherweight title against Lorenzo Villanueva, of the Philippines, on the undercard of Chris’s title defense on May 5.
The 28-year-old Nouldy will have his shot at a world title when he takes on World Boxing Association bantamweight champion Koki Kameda.
That fight is scheduled for April 4, in Yokohama, Japan.