Shades of Welcome Ncita visible in MalajikaThomas Kwenaite
By Andile and Mandla Dladla
South African boxing appears to be currently in intensive care unit with the sport in desperate need of a life-saving operation to keep it alive even though between 1927 and 2001, 35 South African fighters won a total of 49 world boxing titles.
The number of South African champions peaked in the 1990’s as the country had six world champions in 1995, five the following year, and six in 1997. In 1998 the number stood at eight and in 1999 at five world title holders.
Dingaan “The Rose of Soweto” Thobela won three titles. The World Boxing Organisation and WBA lightweight titles, in September 1990 and June 1993 respectively as well as the World Boxing Council middleweight title in September 2000.
The late Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala is the only South African boxer to have won four titles in three different eight divisions. He won the WBO flyweight title in May 1993 and the WBO flyweight title in November 1995 as well as the International Boxing Association (IBA) junior flyweight title in July 1997 and the World Boxing Union in February 2001.
Welcome “The Hawk” Ncita won the IBF super bantamweight belt when he dethroned Fabrice Benichou in Israel while Vuyani “The Beast” Bungu held the IBF junior-featherweight titles from 1994-1999 as well as the IBO featherweight title from 2004-2005.
But in recent years, boxing in South Africa has taken a serious decline and it is boxing trainers like Nazeem Kassam of Lenasia South Boxing Club who is working very hard in the gym with his boxers to try and make sure that South Africa is once again at the very top level of world boxing.
“We have over thirty boxers and not just male but female boxers as well,” said Kassam. “There are young girls and older ones who come to learn about boxing so that they are able to defend themselves in our society where gender-based violence has taken frightening proportions.
“There are two brothers that we have who are coming up in the lightweight category. We also have another boxer who recently fought in the Johannesburg Elite Championships and we also have countless younger boys who are very committed and looking to one day become champions.
“Many people come to the gym to distress and be around other people so that they are able to connect to something that will help them to become better people.”
With the rising number of GBV (Gender Based Violence) cases, many women come to learn on how to protect themselves and with the bullying in schools you find that a lot of young lads come to gym to be able to avoid such challenges.
Nazeem believes that what contributed to the downward spiral in SA boxing was the management at the time not focusing on the development of the sport.
“With new directors in charge now there’s a huge change and the good thing is that it can be seen at both amateur and professional level. There’s trajectories put in place to develop these fighters properly to make sure that the road to the Olympics is within reach for our boxers.
“There’s now academy training that has been implemented as well as in different areas that the boys are at and where development is needed.”
With that said the good news is that there has also been a lot of investment that has come from the government to the sport of boxing to make sure that boxing is still one of the twelve most important recognized sport in South Africa.
“Boxing will always be there and it’s very far from being dead and hopefully Lenasia South can make this happen in the Johannesburg south area. I am planning to host a tournament towards the end of this year and hopefully to revive and rebuild the fistic game.
“We have some young boys that are really coming up in the likes of Lerato Malajika who is fighting in the Johannesburg Junior Bantamweight division and he is a very good boxer who is young, fresh and has the energy to go far.”
Nazeem also sang praises of another up and coming youngster called Sameer Moola and he is confident that the boy will who will definitely hit the bright lights of world boxing pretty soon.