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Veteran trainer drools about time spent with Ledwaba

Mtshali recalls how boxer entered his gym aged just eight

Hezekiel Mtshali.
Hezekiel Mtshali.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe/ Sunday Times

Boxing guru Hezekiel “Ziggy” Mtshali says only death will part him from the fistic sport. Mtshali also reminisced about the good old days he shared with departed former world champ Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, who will be remembered at Dlamini Multipurpose Hall in Soweto next Sunday.

Mtshali, 79, says Ledwaba joined his gym at the age of eight.

“If you slice my head open, you will realise that my brains are in the form of a boxing glove,” said Mtshali, who was Ledwaba’s first boxing trainer.

“Lehlohonolo was eight years old when I started training him. Actually, I trained his uncle who won the amateur flyweight tournament in 1969. He got stabbed at Cross Roads in White City; he survived but was never able to box again. That is how it all began with me and Lehlohonolo, who won the featherweight SA amateur championship in Giyani in 1989.”

Mtshali’s other boxers were Morgan Ndumo and the Thwala brothers, Fana and Patrick. He said when he saw them walking into his Central Western Jabavu gym in Soweto, he immediately told his assistant Obed Molekwa [who was Mtshali’s trainer as a boxer] that they were looking at one or two world champions in those boys.

Mtshali's faith in those boxers bore fruit. Fana was the first amateur to represent SA in the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992. Ndumo won the WBC International mini-flyweight title. But it was Ledwaba who fulfilled Mtshali’s prophecy and became a household name. He won three world titles in three weight divisions.

Ledwaba would eventually quit the sport in 2006 due to a detached retina and followed in Mtshali’s footsteps, finding great joy in honing the skills of young fighters as he sought to give back everything he learnt from the veteran who opened the door for him years earlier.

Ledwaba produced national champions Doctor Ntsele and Tshepang Mohale. He passed away in July last year.

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