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How Mpush Makambi survived two gunshot wounds to the leg to become world champion

By Bongani Magasela | 2017-03-13 15:39:00.0

Mpush Makambi IBO middleweight champion with Peter Malinga welterweight IBO champion here they brandish their belts after Makambi successfully defended his crown while Malinga won a vacant title in Coventry in London on 23 October 1999. Pic by Mxolisi Ntshuca

Winning the IBO middleweight title was the highlight of retired boxer Mpush Makambi's career but few fight fans are aware that he was shot in the leg twice as he was starting out in the early days and doctors said he'd never walk properly again.

The now 50-year-old left-hander from Mdantsane said he turned professional in 1983 but decided to put his career on hold and joined the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

The PAC deployed him to its military wing‚ the Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA)‚ and he was shot in the leg after a skirmish with the South African Defence Force.

"I was shot in the leg during a fierce battle against the South African Defence Force near the Botswana border‚” he revealed.

“I managed to crawl to a nearby village‚ and the Botswana army got to me before the SADF did.

"I was treated at Francistown in Botswana and later transferred to Zimbabwe.

“The PAC withdrew me from active service and I was sent to the USA to further my education.

"Having been told in Zimbabwe by doctors that I would never walk properly again‚ through spiritual healing I started jogging again and ignored the immense pain.”

He soldiered on and eventually returned to the ring in the US.

He said one of his early bouts in the US was a draw with Andrew Council‚ who would later become a top contender.

“I had just joined the Sugar Ray Leonard boxing talent in Palmer Park (Maryland). I then fought Andrew‚” he says.

“I was at first announced as the winner but a few minutes after‚ I was alarmed to be brought back to the ring and the fight was declared a draw.”

Following the unbanning of the liberation movements in February 1990‚ Makambi packed his bags and returned home to SA to continue boxing.

He recorded a mixed bag of wins and losses along the way as he tried to establish himself in SA.

Makambi later lost a fight for the SA junior middleweight title to champion Gregory Clark in 1992.

But Makambi later won that belt from Johannes Malaza in 1994‚ and four years later added the IBO strap to his collection of belts after beating Adrian Dodson in the UK

Makambi lost that belt two years later to Raymond Joval in Netherlands.

“Look at how I found myself in that fight (in the Netherlands).

"I did not want that fight and I never even signed a contract for it.

"But I was told (by the hierarchy of the IBO) in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t fight my title would be declared vacant.

"So I went to Rotterdam and lost my title under dubious circumstances because I had no promoter.

"Had I won that fight‚ I would have fought in a high-profile fight against either Winky Wright or Benard Hopkins.

"I lost the title on points when I thought I had done enough to retain my title.

“That is the price you pay for not having a promoter.”

Makambi still looks back at that episode with a great deal of sadness as a fight against either Wright or Hopkins would have guaranteed the biggest payday of his life.

“You are not protected from exploitation when you do not have a promoter‚” he said.

“Winning the SA junior middleweight and middleweights titles as well as the IBO belts was very little reward for someone who had the kind of potential I had.

“I believed from an early age that I was destined for greatness but unfortunately that did not happen.

"My involvement with Apla scared off people‚ especially white promoters‚ away from me.

"I do not regret having joined the PAC because we wanted to change the country’s political landscape."

Makambi eventually retired in 2007.

He beat many top names including William Gare to register 30 wins‚ 20 knockouts against 11 losses and three draws.

He says boxers today are “very” fortunate to have promoters dedicated to them.

"They must make the best of it‚" he said. - TMG Digital