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.”