Saturday, 10 October 2020

NO BOUTS : BOXER TURNS TO LANDSCAPING

FRUSTRATED by failure to get fights, Bulawayo pugilist Meluleki Ngulube, a product of the once vibrant Tshaka Youth Centre in Makokoba, has found new passion in landscaping.

The 27-year-old Ngulube, a multi-Zimbabwe National Youth Games medal winner, started landscaping about four years ago after noticing that bouts were hard to come by and needed to find means of earning a living.

Ngulube, who was introduced to boxing as a 10-year-old in 2003, the same year he went on to win a silver medal at the Zimbabwe National Youth Games, says even though he has been managing to put food on the table through landscaping, he misses “beating up” opponents in the ring.

“To be honest it hasn’t been easy to train and not get a fight. The last time I was in the ring for a competitive fight was in 2018 when I fought in an undercard for Charles Manyuchi. What hurts most is that since turning professional in 2010, I have less than 10 fights. Sometimes I feel that I made a mistake by turning professional in 2010 because there are more fights for amateurs than professionals. I know that at some stage I was bound to turn into a professional fighter, but what I’m saying is that I shouldn’t have rushed to dump amateur boxing. Maybe if I had turned professional around 2015 or 2016, I would have made lots of noise in the amateur rankings such that it would have prepared me for a good entry into professional boxing,” said Ngulube.

He said he was excited when he turned professional with his childhood friend Ntando Sibanda, who later quit the sport and moved to South Africa in 2015 due to lack of support. Sibanda is an ex-Zimbabwe National Youth Games champion.

Veteran trainer Philip “Striker” Ndlovu, who nurtured Ngulube and Sibanda, among other prominent boxers, once complained that failure to secure sponsorship to stage professional fights had seen few pugilists progressing in the sport.

Despite a number of talented pugilists emerging in the amateur boxing ranks, very few turn professional, with a huge number being lost due to failure to secure sponsorship.

Ndlovu painted a grim picture of the sport, saying only passion and dedication kept them going to the gym everyday despite lack of bright prospects.

He said the sport begins and ends at the gym as activity outside was lacking due to lack of fights for professional boxers. While amateur boxing is active, with several tournaments being held, boxers showing a lot of promise end up ditching the sport as prospects of turning professional are dim.

“No one can stay an amateur forever. There are stages in the sport and when one becomes a boxer ultimately he intends getting to the highest level, but without any action at the top, one is bound to give up and turn to other activities.

“Some talented amateurs that showed a lot of promise have ditched the sport because the road ahead looks bleak. They have to earn a living and boxing is not showing any signs of paying anytime soon,” Ndlovu said.

South Africa-based Zimbabwean heavyweight boxer Elvis Moyo has also been at the forefront, pleading with the corporate world to support local boxing and help talented pugilists realise their dreams.

Moyo believes lack of corporate backing continues to stifle boxing development, with talented pugilists being lost to the sport.

 

 

Moyo, a former World Boxing Federation (WBF) Africa heavyweight champion, had to leave for South Africa in 2010 to further his career after realising that his boxing would suffer due to lack of sponsorship.

Popularly known as Bulawayo Bomber, Moyo said he is saddened that talented boxers like former World Boxing Association (WBA) Pan-Africa heavyweight champion Thamsanqa Dube failed to get “meaningful earnings” despite putting the country on the world boxing map after beating Jake Els in 2009 to lift the continental title.

He also lamented the loss of boxers like the former Tshaka Youth Centre pair of Ntando Sibanda, a flyweight division boxer, as well as ex-Zimbabwe National Youth Games champion Meluleki Ngulube, who quit because of lack of support.

The duo was among Zimbabwe’s bright prospects before they were lost to boxing a couple of years ago.

Sibanda moved to South Africa, while Ngulube now maintains grounds at the Highlanders Clubhouse and during his spare time pushes his side hustle of landscaping.

“Boxing, just like football is a viable sport industry that needs support. If our boxers do well on the international stage, it will be easy to groom upcoming stars and get more sponsors. What has been happening now is each man for himself. One has to find his way and stay there to try and survive. The corporate world needs to support boxing so that talented boxers are not lost to the sport. There are a number of boxers that can win medals for Zimbabwe on the world stage, but they need support,” Moyo said.

Ngulube says with Ndlovu down with prostate cancer, at times he trains with army boxers.

“Mike Foloma sometimes trains army boxers at Tshaka, but they don’t train everyday which means I have to train alone to keep fit. I also do sparring sessions with guys bigger than me, but that doesn’t give me a clear picture of how match-fit I am. I think I’m rusty.

“I’ll be happy if I can get fights before I reach 30 years. I don’t want to be forced into retirement because of lack of fights because I love boxing,” said the lightweight boxer.

For Ngulube, boxing taught him discipline. “Some view boxing as an insane sport, but it teaches a person to be disciplined. Look, growing up in Makokoba you’re exposed to a lot of bad things, but the sport gave me a purpose and I’d like to see more kids taking it up,” said Ngulube. Chronicle

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