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Come on SA fans, our boxers need us

Congolese boxer Ilunga Makabu. / Bafana Mahlangu
Congolese boxer Ilunga Makabu. / Bafana Mahlangu

It's about time I urge South Africans to attend boxing tournaments because local boxers need their support. Their foreign opponents are enjoying unbelievable support from their fellow countrymen and women.

There is nothing as demoralising as being made to feel like a foreigner in your own country. South African boxing has attracted many exciting fighters from the continent but the bulk of Africa's imports now hail from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

There is a sprinkling of fighters from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Angola but the Congolese rule the roost, and they have targeted Gauteng and the Western Cape as their preferred provinces.

They are hungry for success and by competing in SA, they make local boxing more exciting.

But what makes it even more appealing for the boxers is that their compatriots, male, female, young and old, attend tournaments. It does not matter what fight their countryman may be involved in.

You can be a lightning fast, breathtaking sweet-science practitioner but if you do not enjoy support from your fellow countrymen, then chances are you will not reach the stars.

It is a known fact that there is historical animosity between the two Congos, Brazzaville and Kinshasa.

But you will never see that divide when it comes to them rallying behind their fellow brothers plying their boxing trade in South Africa.

Some Congolese fighters, like Ilunga Makabu and Emanny Kalombo, are still under the guidance of South African trainer Damian Durandt, whose late father Nick Durandt introduced them to the sport of boxing in this country.

There is also new kid on the block Patrick Bonyeme, whose gym in Ellis Park boasts many of his countrymen.

His boxers, including Flo Simba, who has been in South Africa since he was one year old (we are told), are trained by former Free Stater John Tshabalala.

When you look at Bonyeme's eyes when his fighters walk to the ring, you just see fire. It is even worse when his boxer wins.

He says there is serious trouble coming for South Africans. You cannot blame him; that is his investment.

I remember the days when religious South African boxing fans filled every boxing venue to its capacity.

They would go as far as to throw coins into the ring in appreciation for the sheer determination, excitement and heroism displayed by many old- time greats.

It was the likes of Gerrie Coetzee, Arthur Mayisela, Charlie Weir, Jacob Morake, Brian Mitchell, Johannes Miya, Thomas Sithebe, Anthony Sithole, Ben Lekalake, Evans Gwiji, Joseph Tsotetsi, Gaybon Yekiso, Gregory Clark, Peet Bothma, David Potsane, Nika Kumalo, Aladin Stevens, Simon Skosana, Brian Baronett and later Dingaan Thobela and Jan Bergman - the list of stars- that set boxing stages alight, is enless.

You looked forward to the next tournament on Sunday afternoon just after football on SABC.

Come on South Africans, only the SA Boxing Act of 1954 has changed to being the Boxing Act of 2001, the sport remains the same.

Boxing needs you before foreign nationals take over in our backyard. Hold on, please do not accuse me of being xenophobic.

They call our continent Africa, we call it home. Much love.

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