Former South African bantamweight champion, Toto Helebe, from Gugulethu, is on a quest to relaunch his international career, with a fight against Nasibu Ramadhani, in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, on Friday night.
The 36-year-old Helebe, also known as the Gugs Gang, last fought against Lerato Dlamini, in Johannesburg, in July.
Besides the defeat to Dlamini, Helebe had been inactive since 2019. He vacated his title when he decided to campaign at featherweight.
Now, back and hungry for more, the Gugs Gang boxer says he is prepared to go to war, in the 10 rounds of the featherweight fight against the Tanzanian, at the SuperDome Arena.
“They saw me fight but have never seen me fight in Tanzania. This guy (Ramadhani) is their hero so they took me because they know he will have to pull up his socks. We both come from a lower division but it will be a fight so he better be ready because I don’t want any excuses,” he said.
Since Helebe turned professional in 2005, he has won 20 fights – nine via knockout – and lost eight. His opponent, on the other hand, has a record of 32 wins – with 19 knockouts – 17 losses and two draws.
The experienced Helebe says he still has a few fights left in him before he hangs up his gloves.
“I have acquired a lot of experience since 2005. I don’t want to leave the sport for good. I want to be a paid trainer or administrator in the sport. I cannot fight forever but I can impart knowledge on other upcoming boxers,” he said.
Originally from a village called Cala in the Eastern Cape, Helebe said he was often sent to the river to get water. While there, he would bypass time by shadow boxing.
It was never his intention to become a boxer, he wanted to be a professional footballer. But when he came to Cape Town in the late 1990s, a friend that happened to be a professional boxer invited him to the Monwabisi Boxing Gym, in Philippi.
At the gym, Helebe found it easy to blend in with the rest of the amateur boxers, as he already had some basics from way back at home. In 2005, he turned professional.
“When you are a kid in boxing, stay in school. I pushed boxing while I was in school. I would come back tired and would not be able to go and play outside. That helped me to stay away from the bad habits. I ended up being friends with people who were in the same sport. So focusing in school and in sport kept me busy,” he said.
Helebe seemed rather calm ahead of his fight. He said the majority of the hard work is done at training. During the fight, he will out-think his opponent.
“Before the fight I was just training as an athlete without any fight. Then when the opportunity came with this fighter. The time was also enough, so I told my team to let him come. My trainers, Andile Madubedube, Siyabonga Mafika and Welsh Macibela at the 9Sai Boxing Academy helped me to prepare,” said Helebe.
Helebe’s manager, Sinethemba Mandyoli said after three or more fights, they will sit down again for the important conversation as age is not on his side.
“Preparations are going well. We got this fight five weeks ago. We were getting fights on short notice but for this one we were able to complete the preparations in the camp.
“It’s easy to encourage someone like him. He is no longer fighting for himself, his carrying the country, his family and his team on his back,” said Mandyoli.
The main bout is supported by cruiserweight prospect, Shaban Jongo who will compete against Uganda’s Musa Ntege for the ABU East African cruiserweight title, over 12 rounds.
Another notable fight includes USA heavyweight sensation, Jarrel Miller who will take on Tanzania’s Tamim Awadh.