Veteran unearths gem in Busakwe

Boxing trainers Norman Hlabane and Lehlohonolo Ledwaba with boxer Khaya Busakwe, middle, in Soweto.
Boxing trainers Norman Hlabane and Lehlohonolo Ledwaba with boxer Khaya Busakwe, middle, in Soweto.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

If current conduct and performance is anything to go by, then accomplished veteran boxing trainer Norman "Hitachi" Hlabane has found a gem in Khaya "The Destroyer" Busakwe.

The youngster from Jabavu in Soweto, is a reincarnation of the one-time sweet science practitioner Dingaan Thobela who was also trained by the same unheralded mentor.

Hlabane is a former professional boxer whose career was cut short by an injury.

He began training fighters at John Middleton's Gym in Johannesburg before moving to Braamfontein where he established himself as a formidable trainer, honing the skills of many old time greats, including Peter Mgojo, Bobby Chisale and David Potsane.

Hlabane was later joined by Thobela who he guided to winning both the WBO and WBA lightweight titles. That is the same weight division where Busakwe, who packs a mean punch, is steadily making his name.

He did a number on Brandon Naude, stopping him in the fourth round, to win the Gauteng title at Sandton Convention Centre last weekend. That was Buswake's five short route win from as many pro fights.

Busakwe, 28, was discovered by former WBU bantamweight champion Lehlohonolo Ledwaba who also went through the tutelage of Hlabane towards the end of his career.

But Ledwaba could not train the boxer, because of the rules that govern the sport. He can only have one licensee.

Ledwaba co-owns TLB Promotions with Joyce Kungoane, Jan Bergman and doctor Chris Ntepo. Ledwaba handed Busakwe to Hlabane.

"His late grandfathers (Howard and Junior Busakwe) were my clubmates at Water Branch Boxing Gym at the Village Main," revealed fresh-looking 73-year-old Hlabane this week.

"If Khaya continues being the dedicated and good listener that he is, I will find strength to push him."

Hlabane has had difficult times, losing his wife and later his son to natural causes.

"I quit boxing totally and my other children were unhappy, but our family doctor advised me to go back and I followed his instructions.

"That helped me a lot to deal with the trauma. I am back feeling strong again."

Hlabane added: "It is very rare to get boys like Khaya who come to the gym jogging and the same applies after training. Fortunately he is free to fight for any promoter."

Busakwe said: "My ambition is to become a world champion but the first step is to win the SA title."

He is yet to earn a rating. Busakwe won a number of gold medals in 45 wins against two losses in the amateur ranks.

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