Lifestyle

Kulani Nkuna
3 minute read
18 Jan 2014
6:00 am

Get into the ring – Mayweather tells Soweto youth

Kulani Nkuna

The cynical gasped when Floyd "Money" Mayweather rolled into Soweto on Thursday in a convoy comprising two Rolls Royces, two Bentleys and a Ferrari.

Undisputed Boxing Champion of the world Floyd Mayweather Jnr and SA Minister of Sports and recreation Fikile Mbalule at Dube boxing Gym in Soweto, Johannesburg, 16 January 2014, to unveil the Baby Jake Matlala

The truth is, if you watch any of his pre-fight coverage, you will be familiar with this display and you will understand it too.

It’s all about appearances, and when you have fought 45 times and won every time, you are allowed your excesses. It is safe to assume that Mayweather is disliked in the US for his attitude outside the ring, but is highly respected for his expertise in it. However, in South Africa, he is a hero to many, and his excess is readily welcomed. And judging by the reception he received in Soweto, you could even go as far as saying he is the people’s champion.

Mayweather has a motto that his South African fans are familiar with, and before he addressed the boxers at Thursday’s clinic he hollered: “Hard work!” to which the boxers and audience in attendance responded “Dedication!”. And that is the real Mayweather, with no bells and whistles. To the Soweto youth his success is a result of hard work and dedication.

This was the message he imparted to the pugilists at the Dube Boxing Club. The club boasts some female fighters as well and is a centre of excellence in the area. Those who attend the facility regularly are looked upon with a great measure of respect.

“People don’t look at you lightly when you train at this gym,” says female boxer Nsovo Chauke, 19.

“As you can see, I’m very fit and with that comes respect. People in the community respect athletes, especially women who take part in physical activities. And nothing is more physical and gets you fitter than being a boxer.”

It is said that boxing training is pivotal in weight loss, increased agility, coordination and muscle tone.

“I was always the first one to enter the gym and the last to leave,” Mayweather told his audience.

“You have to be dedicated and stay focused in order to be sharp. I was a student of boxing and that is what is necessary in order to succeed in the ring and in life. You have to be a student of your craft. That is how you will improve.”

For Tshwarela Mkefa, another female boxer, seeing Mayweather was a real treat.

Boxers around Gauteng attended the launch of Baby Jake Matlala Boxing academy at Dube boxing Gym in Soweto, Johannesburg, 16 January 2014. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Boxers around Gauteng attended the launch of Baby Jake Matlala Boxing academy at Dube boxing Gym in Soweto, Johannesburg, 16 January 2014. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

“I think this visit has revived the spirits around here, and it has also shown us that we have to work harder to achieve and get to the level that Floyd Mayweather is,” Mkefa said.

“Girls can now see that you don’t have to play netball only, and that there are other options. Boxing is great, especially for those who might want to lose weight and keep fit. There is a lot of running, a lot of upper and lower body work involved. It is a full work out. Plus you can always protect yourself, and people are less likely to take their chances if they know that you are a boxer.”

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula was in his element during Mayweather’s entire visit.

“We are glad that you came here while you are still a champion and not when you are retired,” Mbalula said to the American.

“We host champions and not mediocrity. You are great and you don’t have to prove anything to anyone and the people of South Africa can see that. You are a great disciplinarian and living proof that with hard work anything is possible.”

Long after the Mayweather’s motorcade had left, young boxers were getting on with their routines with renewed energy and zest. The visit proved inspirational and some members hoped that new people would join up not only for boxing but for general health reasons as well.

“More and more people, especially ladies, are enquring about joining the gym,” says Chauke.

“Boxing is a great way to stay fit and it allows you to protect yourself as well.”

ACTION. Nsovo Chauke (left) and Tshwarelo Mkefa were at the Dube Boxing Club for Floyd Mayweather's visit. Pictures: Nigel Sibanda.

ACTION. Nsovo Chauke (left) and Tshwarelo Mkefa were at the Dube Boxing Club for Floyd Mayweather’s visit. Pictures: Nigel Sibanda.