Boxers happy to be back in the ring

Gabriella Drewery wasted no time getting back in training once gyms opened up after months of closure due to the lockdown.

The young fighters at Vibrant Sports Boxing Club in Ottery had their dukes up as soon as government gave the green light for training to resume. 

Like gyms countrywide, Vibrant has been closed since President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national lockdown in March.

After months of being under lockdown, the opportunity to step back in the ring could not have come a minute too soon,” says head coach Josh Cloete.

Cloete, who holds a Master’s degree in sports science, is a strong advocate for education and developing sporting talents.

He says it’s as important to crack the books as hard as you punch a bag.

“I always tell the guys, go educate yourself. Use the time to go and study,” he said.

For now, he’s happy doing what he loves best: getting the best out of his fighters.

Of course, it’s not business as usual, said Cloete, as they have to comply with strict regulations pertaining to the reopening of gyms and training facilities. Keeping it clean takes on a whole new meaning in a post lockdown world, he said.

Cloete, the deputy president of the South African Kickboxing Association, said that, as required, he had compiled and submitted an operational plan to the sports ministry, outlining how kickboxing would operate under the lockdown regulations.

“It was approved and kickboxing was given permission to operate in-line with governmental guidelines,” he said.

This, he said, allowed members to resume training while adhering to necessary Covid-19 protocols such as wearing masks, sanitising the studio on a daily basis, sanitising upon entering, ensuring that temperature checks are taken and limiting the number of people allowed inside the gym.

“Previously, before the lockdown we had group training but that has now changed. Now we work solely one-on-one,” he said.

“When you enter, we have a sanitising mat to clean up the feet or disinfect the shoes, you fill out an attendance register and have your temperature taken,” he said.

While members may have to endure minor, but necessary, inconviences, the mood inside the gym is positive as Cloete’s son Josh Junior, 21, and other club members are put through their paces.

It’s hardly surprising, considering it’s been a while since they’ve gone toe-to-toe with anyone.

The younger Cloete, a sports science graduate, obtained his professional boxing licence just before the lockdown kicked in.

He said he’s been involved with combat sports for 10 years, and started off with taekwondo, judo and kickboxing before settling on boxing about three years ago.

“I am excited and looking forward to what the future holds, the young bantamweight said.

Clubmate Gregory Gans, 25, originally from Saldanha on the West Coast, works as a trainer at Vibrant and has built himself a solid reputation in kickboxing and boxing circles.

“I started with kickboxing, but I also decided to do boxing to develop as a full athlete, not just the one part without the other,” he said.

“For now, our focus is mainly on training to maintain the fitness levels so that when we go back, we don’t have to make up for a total loss of time,” he said.

Fellow Vibrant club member Gabriella Drewery, 24, says it’s all about finding the right balance it life.

“Yes you could be fighting in the ring and in academics, for example, you could be writing. But it’s really not that far apart.

“You just gotta segment, plan and strategise, the former Plumstead High pupil said.