Driven by love for boxing

Former amateur boxer Charles Mtshali, 50, is so in love with children and boxing that he has started a makeshift gym in his yard in Tsakane Extension 19, on the East Rand.

The gym - home to about 48 children, the youngest of whom is seven - is called Bigger Walker Boxing Club.

Mtshali says he trained as an amateur at Geo Maroon Boxing Club in Springs. According to Mtshali, the gym was started by his uncle Gideon Tshabalala in 1976.

That gym is now under trainer Themba Zulu.

Mtshali did not achieve greatness but says he won many diplomas before he stopped fighting in 1984.

The father of three (one boy and two girls), said: "I noticed that our children have nothing to do after school and on weekends, so before they got involved in wrong things, I decided to start my gym here at home in 2014.

"I walked around bothering people with unused things like poles and basically anything that would be useful.

"I assembled all these myself to make things like a punching bag, and even the boxing ring. I am a handy man.

"Children love what they see and I also love what I see in my yard because at the end of the day, it enables me to train these children.

"My fighters are invited to amateur tournaments all the time because they are good."

Mtshali has one set of worn out pads, and about four pairs of torn boxing gloves. He says they have one gum guard that his boxers share when they fight - an unhygienic practice.

"When a boxer is finished fighting, we quickly rinse it and give it to another boxer," he said.

"We do not have head guards, skipping ropes, protectors and even bandages but my fighters do not notice all that.

"What drives them [and keeps them] happy is the love we all share for boxing."

Mtshali's biggest dilemma is when they must travel to boxing tournaments, due to lack of funds.

"We go around asking for donations so that we can hire a minibus to transport us," he said, adding that parents love to see their children being active but assisting financially is another story.

"I am unemployed myself and my wife is also not working. I survive on piece jobs which include painting people's houses and fitting tiles."

The saddest moments come for Mtshali and his fighters when it is raining. They cannot train due to their facility being outdoors.

"We cannot train because we are exposed to rain, cold and wind," he said.

"We have not produced a professional boxer but we will soon. My son [Manqoba]; my two neighbours' sons - Sifiso Malinga and Nhlanhla Mtshali - will be good professionals," he predicted.

Mtshali and his soldiers have appealed for help.

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