SA experiencing a worrying dearth in boxingThomas Kwenaite
By Mandla Dladla
The 1990’s was one of the biggest period for boxing in the world with Mzansi producing some of the most exciting hard hitting boxers.
The country is currently experiencing a dearth in good boxers, a far cry from the time when the late former junior flyweight champion Baby Jake Matlala who despite being vertically challenged, Matlala packed a mean punch.
It is now history that he often found himself in the ring with much taller opponents, but it did not stop him from cutting them down to size and most often, ended up with knockout victories. His deep passion for the fistic game endeared him to the people of Meadowlands in Soweto.
In those days, there was also Brian Mitchell, Welcome Ncita. Vuyani Bungu and Thulani “Sugar-Boy” Malinga who all went out and captured world titles in their different weight divisions.
Vusi Mathiya was born and bred in Mohlakeng a township west of Johannesburg. Mohlakeng is renown for producing Peter “Terror” Mathebula, who became the first ever world champion when he outpointed Tae-Shik Kim to win the WBA flyweight title during 1980.
A former South African professional boxer, Mathiya also worked with the likes of Joseph White and Winston Mokoni.
“Once a boxer, always a boxer and one can take me out of boxing, but no one can take boxing out of me. Boxing will remain inside of me,” he said.
“In those days, we had a board called Boxing South Africa (BSA) but sadly we never really had the right people in the right positions to effectively run the organization.
“Instead there was just too much mismanagement and even today there are boxers that earned millions, but their funds were mismanaged and the said boxers are today poor. As a consequence, boxing is painfully dying because it was taken out of the township.”
In recent years, legendary Dingaan “The Rose of Soweto” Thobela was one of the few black promoters who tried to revive the sport around the country’s townships, but due to lack of funds it’s really been difficult.”
Mathiya said he later on after his boxing career had come to an end, joined the health department but sports had always been his first love so he switched once more and got back as a fitness trainer.
“I am an ex-convict, I once went off the rails but have learned my lessons after serving my time and realised my mistakes and came back to the community I am now serving.
“I deal with young people, adults and senior citizens. I attended a course to learn more about athletics and being a technical athletic coach which inspired me to open Colossus Aerobics Athletic Club.
“We have produced a young champion in Andries Chimawise whom back in 2019 before the covid-19 pandemic became a global challenge, this lad became the national 10 000-m champion and currently the best in the country.”
Mathiya also revealed his other passion and explained that he had worked with several professional soccer players who have suffered major injuries and he was able to assist them to get back into full fitness.
“Mongezi Bobe attended my gym for therapy sessions when he was injured while still captaining Black Leopards in his playing days and had been told that he would never play football again.
“However, we managed to work hard and got him back into action and he went on to be a legend of the beautiful game. I have also worked successfully with former Orlando Pirates midfielder Oupa Manyisa and former CAF African Woman Footballer of the Year – Thembi Kgatlana – every time she is in SA.”
The experienced conditioner revealed that the important aspect as coaches and managers they should never neglect to address mental health and this is one area that make athletes not to perform at their optimum.
“Sport is not just about training the physical part but the mental aspect needs to be looked after too. Sports psychologists are needed more to play a pivotal role in assisting athletes in this regard.
Mathiya also revealed that he ran a team of senior citizens that he trained free of charge and asked the Gauteng municipality to help, as the only assistance he received is from two local businessmen.