Dube Boxing Club loses sting that made it breed top-class fighters in past.
Situated at the heart of the largest township in the country is the famous Dube Boxing Club.
The stable is renowned for its rich history, having produced enterprising champions, notably Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala, South Africa’s great four-time world champion.
The pint-sized legend, who was the pride of the gym, wore the WBO, WBU and IBA flyweight and light flyweight championship belts during a distinguished career.
But today, “Blind” Willie Johnson’s In My Time of Dying echoes through the walls of both the 50-odd-year-old building as well as the new structure, which was officially opened in 1999.
This sad scenario does not only apply to the erstwhile home of champions, it is a case with a number of other stables countrywide as boxing goes through its leanest period.
Among the financial contributors to the new building was the World Boxing Council (WBC), which hoped that the gym would produce more great pugilists.
In 1998, the Southern Metropolitan Local Council and the Gauteng department of sport and recreation jointly pledged R1.25 million toward the club’s renovations.
When City Press visited the gym recently on a chilly highveld winter’s evening, we found Steve Masike, the longest-serving member and former trainer boasting 45 years of experience, seated in a small office inside the new structure.
Soon after exchanging pleasantries, he leads us to the now dysfunctional old structure.
“This is where champions were made,” he says, pointing at an old hall currently under renovation. “But look now it’s being renovated for ping-pong (table tennis),” he adds.
He believes the local boxing greats from the 60s through to the 80s, whose skills were nurtured in Dube, would have taken the world by storm.
But that didn’t happen as a result of bans that were imposed on this country by the international community during apartheid.
Names such as Gabriel “Fighting Gash” Dlamini (SA-Transvaal welterweight), Alf “Kid Bassie’’ Buqwana (SA-Transvaal featherweight), Benjamin Dlamini, Levi “Golden Boy’’ Madi (SA featherweight) and Anthony
“Blue Jaguar’’ Morodi (SA bantamweight, junior lightweight and lightweight) come tumbling out of his mouth.
Masike, a storyteller of note, elaborates on how the 6m by 3m space inside the hall would, at times, accommodate 95 professional boxers during training.
“But today, come here on any weekend and you are likely to find a coffin right there at the centre,” he says, explaining that the venue is now used more for community events – such as church services, funerals and political meetings – than for boxing.
“Where does boxing take place in those conditions?” asks a visibly fed up Masike.
He says the WBC contributed a lot of money for the new building hoping that boxing would prosper and be celebrated in Soweto, “but that is not the case”.
Inside, Masike demonstrates how the setup used to be back in the day, also pointing where the boxing equipment used to be stored.
Walking back into the new building’s main hall, not much boxing activity is happening.
There is an aerobics class and two ladies in the boxing ring, a few boys on the side and veteran trainer George “Mtimande” Ngwenya standing guard.
“It is sad that today no serious (professional) boxing is happening here,” says Masike.
“These few boys and girls you see here are just amateurs.”
Then he summons everyone to come introduce themselves before they leave, the women from the ring are Gugu Majola and Dusy Maahlamela.
Masike says he was optimistic that the two women boxers would give Noni Tenge (former International Boxing Federation female welterweight champion) “a run for her money”.
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