Sticks fighting part of boxing history

By Andrew Matyila

Our forefathers engaged in the ancient art of intonga (stick fighting) with the sticks they used for herding and sometimes used in village battles. This became an early form of sport which led to in other sport activities in South Africa, such as boxing in particular.

To take us down memory lane with regard to amateur boxing, we spoke to the former South African National Boxing Organisation (SANABO) president, Andile Mofu, who reminded us that the first boxing ring corner colours used were green and blue (up to the early 70s), as compared to the red and blue currently used.

The International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) coach-instructor, Mofu, said the boxing kit was not as popular and fancy as of today, and boxers just needed a vest and a short trouser in the boxing ring, with officials wearing plain white shirts and trousers.

“Trainers then were not as well trained and skilful as of today and were usually older people. Nowadays trainers are taught on how to handle boxer’s training, how boxers must throw punches and how boxers must defend themselves,” he said.

“Today we are no longer called amateur boxing, but Open boxing, for the sake of sponsors and marketing purposes. Also the word amateur signifies that you know nothing. Open boxing also refers to the fact that boxing nowadays is made open for many categories. Our age limit for active boxers used to be 34 years, but now moved up to 40 years of age. Women are now allowed to participate actively in boxing. We had Noni Tenge, Namhla Tyhuluba, Unathi Myekeni, Bomikazi Klaas and others, who were our first women boxers, and later went on to become professional boxing champions,” Mofu said.

“There are lot of things that have changed now,” he added, reminding that back in the days boxers were using head guards, for preventing concussion, cuts and so on. It was by law then.

“We also used to have junior and senior divisions only in our amateur boxing. Now we have School Boys, which are from 13 to 14 years, Juniors, from 15 to 16 years, Youth, from 16 to 17 years and Elite, which is from 18 to 40 years old, for both boys and girls. Only the Elite division does not wear head guards now, in preparation for professional boxing standards.”

Amateur boxing divisions were from Mosquito, Nut, Midget, Flyweight, Bantamweight, Featherweight, Lightweight to Welterweight for our junior divisions back then, with seniors starting from Flyweight up to the Middle and Heavyweights, following the same pattern as in the Juniors.

The judges for a fight in our ranks were three, but were later changed to five. Three out of those five judges would have to decide in a second whether a blow was to score a point or not and punch the points on the pad given. A combination or series of blows would score a single point. A hard thrown punch finding target would score a point. The scoring system was later computerised for international amateur boxing, for a 20 point must system, a 20-19 or 20-18 to 20-17 margin for a winner. Now it’s changed again to a 10 point system” concluded Mr Mofu.

Today we are looking at the development and safety of the boxers as of most importance. Professionals use 8 ounce glove size, whilst Open boxing uses 10 ounce. Between boxers weighing 69 kilograms up to heavier weights, we use 12 ounce gloves.

“We had Hawk Makhephula, Silence Mabuza, Kgotso Motau and them, who some became world champions and some South African champions, being our products. This shows the quality of boxers that comes out of our ranks, Open boxing.

“Professional boxing is controlled by the parliamentary Act, whilst Open boxing is controlled by the Constitution”, indicated Mr Mofu.

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