When the boxing bug bites, it bites hard.
Some take care of their families from the riches of the sport and some become vessels to carry the teachings on to the next generation.
For 19-year-old Qhawe Mafika, inspiration sparked from an old video tape of the late world heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali.
Originally from Windhoek, Namibia, Mafika was on a trip with his father in Croatia when his father’s friend played a film of Muhammad Ali. Mafika couldn’t stop watching it, not knowing, he was programming himself with the inspiration.
Ali’s flair in the ring, poetic justice outside of the ring, his ability to work hard and to get into the head of his opponent, were just some of the capabilities he possessed. Mafika hopes to mimic the hard work, lessons and fighting spirit of Ali in his young boxing career.
The Gardens-based amateur fighter is training under the wing of professional coach Matt Leisching, at MadFit Boxing and MMA, in Roeland Street, Cape Town.
Leisching’s experience has enabled him to train professional fighters across different disciplines, from a list of international boxers to Professional Fighters League’s Don Madge.
Leisching says Mafika is a natural talent who approached him earlier this year to join the gym.
“He had boxed before but never fought. He came to the gym earlier this year. He is such a nice boy, we connected so well. He has so much natural abilities and is easy to work with. He had his first fight with me two months ago and he completely cleaned his opponent. He had another fight at my event a few weeks ago (PunchUp Cape Town) and he won again. He put on a good display.”
Leisching has been in boxing since he was 13 years old. He grew up in Johannesburg before moving to Cape Town to open his own gym at the age of 25. He is a striking coach and a business partner with Don Madge since the age of 20.
“We are going to build Qhawe up and eventually take him to the provincials and then the nationals and hopefully he can get another gold medal for the Western Cape,” he says.
Leisching’s team has been successful in grooming national champions in both male and female categories. He says there is a bright future ahead for Mafika.
The young orthodox boxer won his third fight this year, during a Vibrant Sports boxing event, in Ottery, on Saturday. He was also named the best boxer of the tournament.
Before boxing, he travelled to Japan, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, as a part of the Drakensburg Boys’ Choir before he moved to Cape Town to fully focus on his boxing journey last year.
“From there I moved to Kearsney College and from there I went to SACS in Cape Town. When I moved it is basically when I decided, I have always been athletic but I haven’t had my opportunity to see where my potential is with sports. I went to The Armoury and I decided I wanted to be dedicated to the sport of boxing. I was doing boxing but I wasn’t dedicated a hundred percent,” says Mafika.
The welterweight boxer says he is with the best boxing team that are able to set up everything ahead for the year.
“When I got a head injury my parents said, ‘that is it, boxing is done’. I told myself, ‘this is what you want to do, step up, put everything aside and do this a hundred percent.’
“In May I joined MadFit. I had my first fight in June. I had my second fight in July. Both fights went well. I won both fights but there is still a lot to learn. I am just looking forward to where things are going,” he says.
Mafika motivated his fellow peers by saying, “when the bright lights come, they should always remember to stay humble”.
“Keep your head down. Cancel the noise. Stay focused. It is far from over. Everyday is just another day to learn and better yourself. By God’s grace, everyday should be like the first day you walked into the gym. Stay humble,” says Mafika.