Hard work pays off for boxing matchmaker Luyanda Kana

Boxing SA 2017 matchmaker of the year Luyanda Kana dedicated his award to late former sports minister Makhenkesi Stofile.
Boxing SA 2017 matchmaker of the year Luyanda Kana dedicated his award to late former sports minister Makhenkesi Stofile.
Image: Nick Lourens

Hard work and dedication paid dividends for Luyanda Kana after he walked away with Boxing SA's 2017 matchmaker of the year award in Port Elizabeth at the weekend.

The 55-year-old‚ who is very passionate about match-making‚ saw off stiff competition from Reuben Rasodi and Abbey Mnisi to win the accolade on South African boxing's glamour night.

The soft-spoken Kana paid tribute to late Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile who encouraged him to train prisoners after they met in prison in the late 80s.

"I dedicate this award to Bra Stof (Stofile)‚" said Kana‚ who also revealed that Stofile was serving 11 years on terrorism charges when they met in prison.

Kana and 32 others from the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress were sentenced to death. They were jailed for serious “political” crimes on the eve of South Africa’s new dispensation.

They were pardoned by former president Thabo Mbeki in 2002‚ and Stofile should be given credit for their release.

"When we arrived in prison in 1989 we found Bra Stof there‚" Kana said.

"He welcomed us and also introduced us to other comrades (UDF members).

“Bra Stof suggested that I should be a teacher and teach other inmates to write because others could not write.

"He then started a school and I became a teacher as he suggested. Bra Stof cared more for people rather than himself.

"I remember him asking me to raise my voice very loud when I read the newspapers so that everybody could hear what was happening in the outside world.”

Stofile was released on February 12 1990‚ a day after the release of Nelson Mandela‚ and Kana said he learnt a lot about boxing from the former Sports Minister.

“He loved boxing and actually he understood the sport like you would not believe it‚" he said.

"That is how we began training fighters like Mzukisi Roberts‚ Sabelo Jubatha and Bonakele Bikitsha.”

Roberts – who infamously made headlines after sneaking out of the jail cell in 2003 to fight in a professional boxing match without a licence – was serving a 10-year prison term for murder.

He was accompanied to the fight by a prison warder and his corner was manned by Welcome Ncita.

Roberts stopped Sabelo Nokhele in three rounds and was rushed back to his cell after the fight.

After being officially released‚ Roberts won 11 fights (including the Baby Champs title) against a loss until he disappeared in 2007.

But he was no longer trained by Kana because the latter decided to become a matchmaker.

“There were more than enough trainers‚ so I sat back and remembered Bra Stof when he told me about the matchmakers of yesteryear.

"So I decided that I should pursue that direction‚” said the man who currently remains the only matchmaker in East London. Jubatha was released on parole in 2008 and turned his life around for the better.

At one stage he visited his former inmates and gave motivational talks on staying clean.

Jubatha actually made a resounding professional boxing debut by winning the SA featherweight title in 2009.

Against seemingly insurmountable odds‚ he astounded the boxing fraternity by regaining the crown when he stopped Simphiwe Tom in the fourth round in 2011.

Jubatha successfully defended his title once before being dethroned by Sidney Maluleke over seven rounds. That was Jubatha’s second defeat. He last fought in 2013.

Bikitsha won the Eastern Cape junior-featherweight belt in 2010‚ lost by a split points decision to Oscar Chauke for the SA featherweight title in 2014 and was also outpointed by Bongani Mahlangu for the national junior - featherweight crown on June 17.

“That is all because of Bra Stof‚" said Kana.

"You know I remember Bra Stof‚ the then Premier of the Eastern Cape‚ threatening to go back to jail if we were not released.

"Terror Lekota‚ Steve Tshwete and Baleka Mbete all came to visit us in jail after that.

"I remember Bra Stof sending comrades to us with political books to read and understand the struggle and the organisation.

"You see‚ we had a choir in prison‚ and we sang Seventh Day Adventist songs that were taught to us by Putco Mafani’s grandfather who was a prison warder.

"We used to sing for Bra Stof before he slept and woke up in the morning in prison."

Kana added: "So when we visited him in his house‚ we sang some of those songs and you could see that Bra Stof was touched."

Stofile passed away on August 15 2016.

Kana has mastered the art of matchmaking to such an extent that East London boxing promoters even in Johannesburg are desperate to enlist his services.