Pic by: Siyanda Nkonyeni
The townhisp of Mdantsane is known as a boxing mecca which has not only produced champions nationally but has placed the province on an international map. The sad reality thought is that most of these champions are has-beens, who have hit rock bottom after they have reach the end of their careers and are struggling financially.
To make ends meet most of these former gladiators have sought other measurers, with some resorting to desperate ways that are remotely associated with a boxer’s lifestyle.
Take former Super Flyweight champion Simpiwe “Sparks” Pamana, who is one of the most talented and famous boxers to come out Mdantsane, who now sells alcohol for living at his home in NU 14. Despondency left him no choice but to sacrifice morality and his social standing, and use what he has to survive.
“After I hanging up my gloves in 2002, I did not have any source of income and I had to devise a plan. Opening a tavern was not a decision I was comfortable with because firstly it never crossed my mind that I would one day run a business, and secondly being a former boxer running a tarven was also never an option. It’s not easy to run such a business because many communities do not allow it as it creates all sorts of ills. I was fortunate to be accepted by my community after I explained my situation and they allowed me to open,” said Pamana.
For Eastern Cape boxing prospect Wela Cecana life is a daily struggle as he finds himself drowning his sorrows in a liquor bottle and depends on odd jobs for survival.
“Life is hard for many boxers in the province because we are not working and are getting nothing from the sport we lived and died for, Boxing South African (BSA ) does not look after us. To make ends meet I do odd jobs like drive a taxi, I do not get a stable income because the money I make a day determines how much I earn. What makes things worse is that I never finished high school, I was pursuing the dream of making a name for myself in professional boxing,” he said.
Some count themselves lucky that their lives took a turn for the better after leaving the fistic sport.
Former South African straweight champion Neo Siboka, is one of the lucky ones, he has a full time job, owns a car and a house, and has a family that he is able to provide for.
“It’s a pity that many boxers find themselves struggling financially. I can say I was lucky to able to find a job after I hung up the gloves, I now work as a warden for the Department of Correctional Services and I am comfortable where I am,” he said.
Many South African boxers attained stardom and fortune in the heydays of the 70’s, 80’s and in the early 90’s, it is a known fact that they squandered their hard earned fortunes along the way because of lack of financial planning and carelessness. It is because of this that many suffered the same fate and even died as paupers.