IY fighter faces an unexpected opponent as fire leaves more than 800 people destitute

Sandiso Centane with his trainer and uncle, Bongile Centane, in Hout Bay.

Although he’s used to facing the heat inside the ring, Sisonke Boxing Club’s Sandiso Centane was called to face an unexpected opponent in the early hours of Sunday moring.

More than 800 people were left destitute after 200 informal settlements caught ablaze in Molokoane Street, in Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay.

Centane, from eBhayi, a small settlement only metres away from the area that caught a blaze, helped to clean, rebuild and move all the burnt material, and donated some of his belongings to those that were in need.

Woken by an unusual heat and loud noises at around 1am, Centane, 22, immediately noticed that something was wrong.

He joined a group of community members who tried to put off the fire until firefighters extinguished the remains between 2:18am and 11:48am. He said he quickly grabbed a few valuables in case the fire reached his home and went to lend a helping hand.

“I heard people shout “it’s burning” and I could smell the fire so I rushed to the door to check if it is not too close. I got dressed and went to wake up my older brother,” he said.

Centane said no one exactly knows how the fire started, however, there are rumours of an allegedly drunk man who fell asleep while smoking a cigarette and his house burnt down.

The mini-flyweight fighter, also known as “The Moving Skeleton”, has over 100 amateur fights, including five losses. He recently went professional, and has a win and a loss in his last two fights, prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

His training videos on Instagram have sparked a lot of support from his community. He said he trains and jogs often, and, his coach and his father’s twin brother, Bongile Centane, often comes over to help him with pad and punching bag workouts.

“To be a professional boxer from IY is one of the best things in my life because many kids look up to me and I feel like I can bring change in the community,” he said.

Inspired by a world champion with a record of eight-weight-class-division belts, Philippines’ Manny Pacquiao, Centane said he wants to work his way up into the provincial, national and international rankings, in order to become a world champion himself.

“My coach, who is also my uncle, used to always take me to the gym to watch tother boxers train, then I fell in love with the sport. I am inspired by Pac-Man… He came from nothing to where he is now and he is a hero to his nation,” he said.

Centane said his background is the reason he strives to become an inspiration to his society.

“It doesn’t really matter where you come from or who you are, to become whatever you wish to be all it takes is dedication and hard work,” said Centane.