Multi-award-winning national boxing legend and former anti-apartheid sports activist, Thembi Magwaca, has been hailed a people’s person, mentor and a mother figure – both on and off the ring.
Mam’ uMagwaca, 71, died last week Friday after a long battle with cancer.
Tributes came pouring in from around the boxing fraternity as those who had been touched by her support, work and love for her craft reflected on her legacy.
To many, she was a giant for boxing in general – and a brave fighter advocating for women’s boxing on a national stage.
Her son, Alfred, said she was a sports legend, the first black female international boxing judge in the country, but more importantly, she was a mother, a sister, a grandmother and a great grandmother.
“She was a person first in society. She was in the SA National Civic Organisation (SANCO) helping our communities, she was a part of the sports council, health committee etc.
All of this came from her contribution to boxing. We had scouts in Langa. She was known a lot as a people’s person.
“And that rubbed off on me. I learnt it from her because when we were young we would go with her to meetings although we were kids so we would play outside. She’s been active in boxing since the early 1970s with her brother James Magwaca,” he said.
Magwaca said his mother fought for boxing, in particular women’s boxing. He said there was a time where the Monwabisi Hall in Langa was solely for boxing, however, as time went, the hall was turned into a multi-complex which allowed other sports but excluded boxing.
She came in and that changed as boxing was then given the green light at the Langa sports complex.
Boxing SA co-ordinator, Mickey Klaas said he first got in touch with Magwaca in 1972 when he was still a junior boxer at Luyolo Boxing Club in Gugulethu.
Klaas said Magwaca was still a supporter of Harlem Boys Boxing Club in Langa at the time as her brother was also an amateur boxer.
Klaas said she came up with the idea to create clothing gear for Harlem Boys, which took off like a storm because clubs like Luyolo, Nyanga Boxing Club and more clubs also wanted their gear to be knitted by Magwaca, with different colours.
“There is a lot to say about her, her journey has been a very long journey in boxing.
In 1976 she broke into the multinational sport.
“That’s when her career as an official sparked. She did that until she got her national colours.
“When they formed the new amateur body, she was an official. We stayed there a few years and moved to professional boxing. She was the first women to be a ring official in SA,” he said.
Klaas said there are many challenges that face boxing in SA, however, Magwaca’s work as a referee, administrator and professional judge are just three of many milestones she has achieved over the years.
“It’s not nice when you lose someone you have known for all these years but God has a plan for everything he does.
Women’s boxing has been her idea and her objective to see it flourish. What we can do is to push to see it come alive,” said Klaas.
Vukani team leader, Vukile Sonandzi said she was a passionate person who recruited many amateur boxers, scouts and administrators who became profound professional champions.
“She made an example and many followed in her footsteps. Administrators, boxers and officials, they must carry on her legacy. She was a very strong woman and she used to make us laugh too.
“Most of the time we would get notices from her about the sport, she loved boxing,” said Sonandzi.
Former two-time International Boxing Federation (IBF) super featherweight champion Mzonke Fana said the boxing family, in particular the province which has a shortage of women in the sport, lost a mother.
“She was a great mother of the sport of boxing from amateur to professional.
She’s been up and down to make sure that boxing is alive, she was not just an official but a mother that talked and walked boxing. We’ll surely miss her, may her soul and bones rest in peace,” said Fana.
Mam’ uMagwaca’s funeral will be held on Wednesday,July 15, in Menzi Street in Langa