Sat, Jul 06, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Nelson Mandela the boxer inspires a new generation

AFP, SOWETO, South Africa

In Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela admitted he was “never an outstanding boxer.”

“I did not enjoy the violence of boxing as much as the science of it. It was a way of losing myself in something that was not the struggle,” Mandela wrote.

“Back in those days, boxing was very popular — it was part of that culture,” said Shakes Tshabalala, 81, who has been involved with the center from the start.

Pugilism always played a big part in Mandela’s life and at his nearby house, today a museum, boxing-related items, such as the WBC World Championship belt donated by Sugar Ray Leonard are on display.

Back at the center, a new generation of youngsters are training.

Although few of them box today, they draw their inspiration from Mandela’s example in healthy living. While the ailing 94-year-old statesman is battling a recurring lung infection, the gym-goers firmly believe the liberation icon will return for one last round.

“Mandela was a sportsman. This is why today he is still alive,” Langa said. “I am worried about him, but I know he’ll win. He’s a fighter.”

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