By Andrew Matyila
Many top boxing personalities, at one stage in their lives, started by carrying somebody else’s training kit to the gym.
Our greatest boxer ever produced in the Eastern Cape, Nkosana “Happy Boy” Mgxaji, is no exception.
Happy Boy used to carry the training kit bag of one of East London’s first professional boxers, Lawrence “Slow poison” Nzondo. He ended up joining him in training and later became very popular in boxing, a crowd puller attracting huge number of fans from all over South Africa.
Happy Boy’s nephew, Mlungwana Mgxaji, then used to help Happy Boy with his training kit to and from the gym, and ended up being a top Eastern Cape professional boxing prospect himself.
Odwa Mdleleni, the former South African junior flyweight boxing champion, started by carrying Loyiso Mtya’s training bag to Zama boxing club. He had no other option but to train as well, as sitting there and waiting for Mtya to finish training was of no help to him.
Odwa went on to become one of the best boxers ever produced by South Africa, having been a world title contender at some stage in his boxing career.
Loyiso Mtya, the former boxing judge and referee (both at amateur ranks), professional boxing ring announcer, trainer, manager, promoter and BSA CEO, himself used to carry his father’s boxing training bag to his club before he became a boxer.
Former Buffalo City Speaker, the late Alfred Skuta Mtsi, used to help former Eastern Cape boxing legend, Guy Ratazayo, with his training kit. Mtsi was a boxer who retired early in his career to further his education career and politics.
Vuyani “The Beast” Bungu, the former world boxing champion, loved watching boxing and the likes of Happy Boy Mgxaji, Welile Nkosinkulu and Zweli Ngcongolo for free at Sisa Dukashe Stadium, but said he was scared of going the gym himself.
At the time, boxing clubs used school classrooms and he would see their windows steamed up with sweat and feared going in. Eventually he had to carry his bigger brother Sunlight’s kit to the gym and was forced to get over his fear and started training himself.
Elders, in those days, liked very much to have their training bags carried by somebody else, and walking hands free. It was normal in those days, but helped a great deal as the kids and boys would be away from the streets.
This happened to all sporting codes, particularly in rugby. You hear great rugby legends telling the same story about themselves.
Some switched, as Andrew Matyila, the former South African flyweight boxing champion, used to assist his elder brothers, Diliza and Spencer Matyila, carrying their training gear to the Black Lion rugby football club’s training grounds.
This rubbed off to loving sport for him, but due to his lack of running speed he joined boxing and the rest became history.
Who are today’s kit carriers and will they become the next generation of great South African sportsmen and women?