How setbacks made Nokwanda Mbatha promoter

Nokwanda Mbatha went to a boxing gym to pursue a career as a boxer but ended up being a promoter./Supplied
Nokwanda Mbatha went to a boxing gym to pursue a career as a boxer but ended up being a promoter./Supplied

Frustrated amateur boxer Nokwanda Mbatha went to a gym to pursue a career as a fighter and the next thing she was promoting professional boxing.

The youngster from Esikhawini in KwaZulu- Natal, who became a boxing promoter by default, operates under the banner of Tono Promotions.

Mbatha's love for the noble art of boxing was fuelled by her uncle and his friends from Imilonji Kantu, a choral music society, way back, she says.

"They would come to our house in Krugersdorp for a braai and watch boxing later," says Mbatha whose maiden tourney took place in 2018.

"From that early age I knew that boxing was a big deal. But it took me many years to get involved.

"I started as a student of Muai Thai, a combat sport of Thailand origins, which uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques.

"I [later started] working for an insurance company [and] travelled a lot. I struggled to get Muai Thai gyms in places I travelled to and that led me to boxing."

When her sister died in 2015, Mbatha decide to move back home to Esikhawini, in Richards Bay, to find comfort for her loss.

"I then found a boxing gym. I can't remember the exact number of amateur fights I had but I had one loss," she chuckles. I started to hear a lot about Tholumusa Ngema. One day he came over and I was intrigued to see him.

"We got talking after some time and I got the sense that he wanted to quit due to lack of opportunities. I would not allow Ngema to end his career just like that
because kids in the gym looked up to him."

She says she asked Ngema, known as Mfundisi (The Preacher), to hang in there.

"I started doing my research, I found the contact details of trainer Nick Durandt. I called him the whole week and there was no response. Sadly I learnt that he had passed away.

"I then came back to Johannesburg and I found the number of Sean Smith whose gym was in Fourways which was closer to where I stayed. That suited my plan fine because Mfundisi was to come and stay with me.

"I told Sean about Mfundisi. I then started bothering Abbey Mnisi [matchmaker] with fights for Ngema and within a month he fought and lost to Ronald Malindi."

Ngema left Smith and joined Malindi's gym in Westbury and they became stablemates at Bernie Pailman's gym.

"I then decided to do it by myself and applied for a promoter's licence."

Mbatha has not looked back and has to date staged two successful tournaments.

"It has been an interesting ride," said Mbatha whose third tournament featuring two title fights was to take place in Richards Bay on April 15.

It was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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