Kriel's decision to quit school and focus on boxing goes under scrutiny on Sunday

Deejay Kriel goes into the ring on Sunday looking to vindicate his decision to drop out of school to follow his boxing dream.

The 22-year-old‚ who grew up in Johannesburg’s working class suburb of Malvern East‚ bids for his first belt as he takes on Filipino Dexter Alimento for the WBC’s stepping-stone International strawweight title at Emperors Palace.

Distantly related to former welterweight star Benny Nieuwenhuizen‚ Kriel fell in love with the sport at the age of eight when an uncle invited him to train at his gym in Edenvale.

When he was 12 he joined the gym run by late heavyweight sensation Johnny du Plooy‚ which was just 2km from his school.

“I used to bunk school to go box‚” he recalled.

“I would arrive at school and make as if I was there.

"There was a wire fence and we’d bring side-cutters to cut holes and get out‚” he added with a smile.

Kriel was coached by David Mazinyane‚ a professional trainer who eventually suggested he move to the amateur stable of Dup du Plooy‚ Johnny’s brother — amateurs and professionals were forbidden from training together at that time.

At 16 Kriel had three amateur bouts and lost them all.

“I stopped fighting then. I realised my style was not for amateurs‚ but I believed I would be a good professional.”

Kriel dropped out of school before his matric year and made his professional debut against Colin Tloubata in 2014‚ losing that on points.

“What killed me in that fight was nerves. After the weigh-in I was proper nervous.”

He avenged that loss with a points win in his next outing‚ and since then he has gone unbeaten‚ with one draw.
Kriel says boxing taught him discipline‚ and he avoided fights outside the ring.

“In school I had a lot of guys challenging me‚ but I love boxing too much to risk that.”

He also avoided the path followed by many of his peers.

“I didn’t do what most boys did — drugs‚ stealing‚ crime. I had a good family behind me‚” said Kriel‚ who also works as a personal trainer.

He points out that Deejay is his real name‚ not a monicker or title.

“My mother liked to party and she was going through CDs looking for a name for me and she saw a lot of DJs.”

The title he’d like is champion.

If he wins‚ Kriel will be the third SA boxer to win this belt after Morgan Ndumo and Tshepo Lefele‚ but others have held WBC International titles at heavier weights‚ such Jan Bergman‚ Mzukisi Sikali and Mzonke Fana.

Kriel’s record is 11 wins (six KOs)‚ one loss and a draw and Alimento is 12 victories (eight KOs) and one defeat. - TimesLIVE

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