Young Khayelitsha boxers beat the odds

Leading the pack is national amateur champion, Okuhle Mthi, from 9SAI Boxing Club in Khayelitsha. Behind her, from the left, are bantamweight provincial champion, Lwando Mgabi; provincial junior featherweight champion Simamkele Tutsheni; provincial featherweight title contender, Zumbonge Nocele and manager Welsh Macibela, at the military base in Khayelitsha, last week. Picture: Lonwabo Marele

Four young fighters from the 9th South African Infantry (9SAI) Boxing Club are using the sport as a catalyst to overcome hardship.

At the military base in Khayelitsha, Lwando Mgabi, Zumbonge Nocele, Okuhle Mthi and Simamkele Tutsheni have found inspiration in the ring.

Three months ago, at a provincial boxing convention held by Boxing South Africa (BSA), Mgabi’s eyes lit up when he saw the director, Mandla Mangaliso introduce the new provincial belts.

Mgabi was standing next to former two-time International Boxing Federation’s (IBF) world champion, Mzonke Fana when he suddenly said, his mission is to win the provincial championship belt.

Lwando Mgabi is set to make his first title defence in June. Picture: Lonwabo Marele

Two months later, the orthodox fighter won in George and was crowned the junior bantamweight provincial champion. While many a boxer would be in celebratory mode, Mgabi is back at camp preparing for his first title defence in June.

“I am preparing well for the upcoming fight because of the camp and the training team I have backing me. This is the beginning of our dreams. There is a lot that is coming. In the bigger picture we are looking at world championships,” said Mgabi.

Mgabi was joined by Western Cape featherweight title contender, Zumbonge Nocele. Affectionately known as one-half of the Terrible Twins, alongside his brother Bongani. Zumbonge is beginning to make some noise and catching the attention of the flyweight and featherweight divisions in the country.

Zumbonge Nocele is set to take on Mbuleleo Gubula for the Western Cape featherweight title at Hope Street, Gardens, this coming Friday night. Picture: Lonwabo Marele

Nocele said his move up to featherweight will not affect his ability to stop his opponent, Mbulelo Gubula, from Mossel Bay, in the sixth round, this coming Friday, at a Maxim Boxing Promotions showcase, in Hope Street, Gardens.

“I am ready. This is going to be my fourth fight. I have one loss and two wins via knockout. I am ready for this 10-round bout. I am going to knock him out before the sixth round. From my hard work, this will be light work,” said Nocele.

Not to be overshadowed, the female boxers are also making their mark. Okuhle Mthi, a silver medalist at an international boxing championship, in Malawi, in December last year, is set to face off against Zizo Skoli, also on Friday night.

Okuhle Mthi is the reigning SA Games amateur champion following her win in Gqeberha last year.

Reigning SA amateur champion, Okuhle Mthi says her mission is to win against Zizo Skoli, in Gardens, on Friday, 25 May. Picture: Lonwabo Marele

“The trip to Malawi was okay but it was not easy. If I had more preparation I would have come back with the gold medal. I came back and told myself I will work on my footwork, speed and attack.

“In the upcoming fight, I am fighting against someone that does not have a lot of experience, but she does not get tired. She makes sure to finish rounds. But I am confident I will beat her. I will beat her,” said Mthi.

Western Cape junior featherweight champion, Simamkele Tutsheni is yet another testament to the transformative power of boxing. At camp last week, she promised fireworks for her upcoming defence in June.

Simamkele Tutsheni says her mission is to stand next to world champion Clarrisa Shields, but for now, her task is become a household name in the country. Picture: Lonwabo Marele

“It feels good being the champion. There is no pressure. There are a lot of people that want to fight me now. I am saying they must come. If they are ready, let us go… The fight in June will be against a debutant fighter. I will be making sure to showcase my skill… My aim is to fight for the World Boxing Confederation (WBC) belts,” said Tutsheni.

Overseeing their training camp with pride is their manager, Welsh Macibela.

“Preparations for the next few tournaments are coming along extremely well. The fighters look good. Zumbonge is headlined for next week and is accompanied by Okuhle. In June Lwando and Simamkele will defend their titles,” Macibela said.

Macibela said he is also happy to join Jackie Brice Boxing Promotion as a matchmaker.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to become a matchmaker with Jackie Brice. As a matchmaker it gives us the opportunity to market boxing. When I look at the Western Cape, with the good pace we are moving at, the only thing that will be when the boxers are ready to fight… But there is nothing that beats being in the gym and staying ready,” said Macibela.

A couple of national and provincial champions from the 9SAI Boxing Club in Khayelitsha. Picture: Lonwabo Marele