In the 90s to the early 2000s, several boxing gyms across the country produced well-known and credible world champions.
But today, most gyms where the champions of what was once the second most popular sport in the country, have sunk to such lows that they are “boxing gyms” in name only.
The Dube Boxing Club in Soweto – where one of South Africa’s best boxers, Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala was produced – is a case in point.
So is the once famous Mzimasi Mnguni’s Eyethu Boxing Club in Mdantsane.
Former World Boxing Association (WBA) lightweight king Dingaan “The Rose of Soweto” Thobela attributed the state of affairs to the sidelining of former boxers from the sport.
“As former champions we put a lot of effort into ensuring that there’s continuity and sustainability in these gyms, but the personal interests of those who control the sport seem to come first, rather than the interests of the sport,” said an emotional Thobela.
This view was echoed by Steve Masike, a trainer with more than four decades of experience at the Dube Boxing Club.
“It’s greed,” he said. “People have become self-centred and forgot a long time ago the meaning of community spirit, which for years has been the bedrock of boxing’s success.”
Thobela said boxing administration in this country was full of people who had little or no knowledge about the sport and there was no support structure for ex-boxers’ initiatives aimed at turning things around.
“These problems will forever haunt us until former boxers are given the opportunity to play their rightful role because people are fed up.”
The 47-year-old Thobela added that the current generation of boxers did not have the passion to generate the excitement witnessed in his time.
There was no integrated development programme and it has become a question of every man for himself, he said.
Welcome “The Hawk” Ncita, the ex-international Boxing Federation super bantamweight titleholder, believes that changing times have contributed to the deteriorating standard in boxing gyms.
He said: “People have become exposed to many career opportunities now, but in our time, boxing was one of the few ways out of poverty.”
Masike also said that in his view boxers were to blame too for lack of discipline and their pursuit of “easy money”.
“Boxing takes time and requires focus and discipline, which is a foreign thing to many of the youth of today,” said Masike.
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