Everyone deserves a fighting chance

9 SAI Boxing Club members after Saturdays training camp at the military base in Khayelitsha. In the middle are Zumbonge Nocele, manager Welsh Macibela, Bongani Nocele, Jacklin Soldaat and seated is Ayabulela Mbicane. Back, are Sonwabo Twatwa and coach Ndudumo Lolwana. The boxers will be a part of the line up in next months boxing event at Hope Street in Gardens

A boxing club in Khayelitsha is recruiting young former inmates, with the aim of changing their lives for the better, through sport.

9 South African Infantry Battalion, or 9 SAI Boxing Club as it is known, has 23 boxers, 12 of which are professionals.

The sports project, based at the SA National Defence Force military base in Khayelitsha, was started in 2010 after manager, Welsh Macibela was approached by Colonel Martin Feni, to start a boxing club in the province.

Macibela, a former professional boxer said in 2006 the army took the initiative to give back to the community through sport.

In 2010, military generals gave the order to produce a boxing camp in Khayelitsha.

“Colonel Feni knew I was a boxer. He asked me to open up the gym. Other units chose sports such as rugby and soccer but we chose boxing. We started with four boxers because we didn’t have the money to accommodate more,” he said.

Macibela said they have 12 boxers from around the province and about eight of them will be fighting in Hope Street, Gardens, at the end of February.

“We are not funded by 9 SAI. They assist us with accommodation for the boxers. We are asking for sponsors from local businessmen but they turn us down.

“But the boxers are pushing ahead. I can also see that something good is coming,” he said.

Professional boxer, Ayabulela Mbicane, from Mfuleni, joined the boxing camp after realising the circumstances at home needed changing. He will fight against Hout Bay’s Mfezeko Magilindane at the end of February.

“I decided to join boxing to better my life. I lost last year and took a slight break. I’m back now to make sure I make the most out of boxing. My focus is on boxing only. I’ve got respect for my opponent but I’m going there to beat him,” he said.

Mbicane’s teammate, Sonwabo “Bornfighter’’ Twatwa, from Makhanda, was introduced to boxing in 1996 by his uncle.

Theboxerrepresented the Eastern CapeattheSA Games in 2002, turned pro in 2005 and was arrested andconvictedin2006.

“I came back out in 2014. Others used to say I should stop boxing. But I can’t stop it’s not over. I can be what I want to be. In life don’t let the past destroy the future. It’s not about how you started. It’s more about where you end up.”

“If you want to achieve something you must be able to work hard and accept there will be mistakes that you will need to correct. That’s life,” he said.

The bantamweight fighter, Twatwa has 15 fights under his belt, including six wins and five knockouts, and one draw. They are awaiting an opponent for his fight at the end of February.

“Jail is not a place for a person to stay. It’s not a place where people should go,” he said.

Trainer Ndudumo Lolwana said he fell in love with the sport in 1985.

He was a professional boxer in Makhanda until 2015 before he started coaching. He joined 9 SAI in August last year.

“What made me join was to witness how these people have heart. They know what they want to achieve.

Boxing has slim opportunities but when it comes you have to be ready to take it. If you tell yourself you have this goal that you want to achieve it will take you very far.

“In the conditions they are in, the way they perform should be motivation for youngsters that are looking up to them. Boxing brings out discipline and they should use that discipline in life,” he said.