It is a Friday morning in Cape Town and professional fighter, Wade “Weetbix” Hammond has just wrapped up a session with coach Matthew Leisching at the MadFit Boxing & MMA gym in Roeland Street.
As he prepares for our interview, professional international champions BK Masunyane and Don Madge walk into the gym and crack a joke that helps Hammond to loosen up.
Of course, this is the type of environment the fighters find themselves in. During camp, they are strict and serious, and after training, they are filled with humour while sharing friendly advice.
Hammond says this is the type of brotherhood they have with the young and old at the gym. He has previously trained at Pride Fighting Centre and Thaiholics Cape Town before finding his way to MadFit MMA eight years ago.
He already had a couple of fights under his belt when he arrived but was looking to improve his boxing abilities. Trainers Leisching and Madge organised sparring sessions with fellow boxers and then lined him up for matches across the city.
“I did quite well because I had a few fights and I wasn’t scared. Eventually, I got my pro boxing licence and had a few pro boxing fights. I just carried on and now I train with Don Madge. He is a multi-world champion in Muay Thai, he has over 100 fights, he fought in Thailand, and is fighting in the Professional Fighters League (PFL) in the USA. The two of them have been my coaches for probably eight years now,” he said.
With the assistance and experience in the ring, transitioning from kickboxing to boxing was not difficult, in fact, he began to enjoy it, despite the ups and downs.
“When I had my first 30 fights I kind of stopped counting. I was having about four fights a month. I was young and wanted to go. I was not worried about taking a safe fight. I was fighting everyone. I started in 2011 but have been training since 2010,” he said.
Fast forward to the present day, Hammond has over 36 wins and 22 losses as a professional fighter. He hopes to make it to 37 victories when he faces Timothy Steenkamp during a MadFit promotions bout, in Hope Street, next month.
“It has been great, it is hard work. It takes a special kind of person, I suppose, to do it, day in and day out. Everybody tries but they don’t really do it, because it is difficult to have headaches and be beaten up and come back for more. I enjoy it. I would say the thrill of it is more rewarding than monetary incentives. People think it is a lot of money because of Floyd Mayweather but it is actually a poor man’s sport,” he said.
In his last fight, Weetbix made light work of former World Association Kickboxing Organisation’s former champion, Luan Venter, at the Thaiholics Fight Promotions (TFP5) event at GrandWest. He knocked him out with a body punch in the second round.
Hammond is a first generation fighter. “My father doesn’t like it. My mom is more of a fighter than my father. I used to enjoy watching boxing growing up. I liked Mike Tyson. I watched the Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. I wanted to be that guy and so I tried to pursue it and the passion stayed alive,” he said.
The two-time South African champion with multiple provincial titles, is aiming for more international fights this year.
“Preparations are going very well. I do two sessions a day. We have a lot of good fighters here at the gym who are really hungry; they come for you at sparring, like they want to take your head off, so it keeps me on my toes.
“I don’t know much about my opponent (Steenkamp). I watched a video or two of him. He looks quick and tricky. But I always give my opponents the same respect in the ring. I just make sure I am the best that I can be. If he beats me at the best that I can be then he is the better man, but if I beat him at his best then I am the better man. I always treat it the same, train hundred percent, train your heart out and when you get in there give it your all and when they lose there it was just not good enough,” he said.
The Milnerton-based fighter said his decade in fighting has been a roller-coaster ride that he would do again.
“Don’t give up, keep pushing. Nothing comes overnight. I started off with loads of losses in the beginning but if I stopped I would have been just that… Everybody sees now pictures with belts and titles but it did not happen overnight. It took me six to seven years to start developing, coming out of my shell and getting my courage properly, and really learning the game. Everything takes time, especially in this sport, it takes longer, and there is a lot that goes into it. And just believing in yourself is also, you can have the ability in the world, but if you do not believe in yourself you will never get there” he said.