When I Was A Boxer

I don’t know why I woke up this morning thinking of that boxing match.  I’m not talking about Sugar Ray Leonard and the Rumble in The Jungle, was that him or was it Mohammed Ali.  I don’t know.  What do I know about boxing?  Well, I know a little bit.

I was trained by Silence Mabuza.  It was for a celebrity charity boxing challenge.  This was when I was a soapy star.  They asked the cast of Backstage if we wanted to take part. It was the guys who said yes.  I said “Hell no!”  And I meant it.  But as time went on I allowed myself to be persuaded that it was a good idea because it was for charity and so, against my better judgement, I agreed to box.   They said I’d get a bit fitter, maybe lose some weight and have some fun.  I didn’t get much fitter.  I didn’t lose a lot of weight.  Silence Mabuza was an excellent trainer, and I was a kind of ok trainee, but my heart wasn’t really in it.  He deserved more enthusiasm than I was able to offer.

On the first day I was punching a punch bag and the look on his face said ‘you’ve got to be kidding’.  He told me if I carry on like that I’d break my wrist.  I stopped immediately.  I didn’t have any idea how to throw a punch.  Why would I have?  I’d never thrown a punch in my life; at least not a real punch.  I’d done the kind of punching you do in exercise class.  I used to go to a class called  ‘kickboxing’ but its much more namby-pamby than real kickboxing.  It still killed you though.  The guy on the stage kept shouting ‘puuush yooourseeelf’ like a sergeant major.  I just thought ‘you push yourself, I’m too busy dying over here’.  Anyway there was a lot of punching the air and kicking the air.  I would have liked to kick that instructor.  Push yourself, huh!  Could he not see the sweat, the strain, the exhaustion, the delirium.  I was pushing myself.  Jeez!

I had, during my training, watched a bit of boxing on the television. It was homework.  My trainer asked me if I’d ever watched a boxing match.  I’d seen Rocky.  The boxing on TV was boring.  I found it boring.  They hardly ever hit each other, and when they did it wasn’t dramatic.  Boxing is much more exciting with a Hollywood touch.  I didn’t tell my trainer that.  I thought it might make a bad impression if I told him I thought it was boring.

Mabuza.SilenceAnyway, Silence Mabuza was my trainer and I’m very proud of that fact.  He would hold up his hands and I would punch them.  He didn’t even bother with those punch pads at first.  I was that bad at punching.  I could deliver a good bitch slap, though.  Let me add that this is an untested claim.  I’ve never bitch slapped anyone.

No, there was that girl once. But she referred to my Daddy in unflattering language, so she deserved it and she got it good.  Apart from that I’ve been a pacifist all my life.   She and I worked together when I first arrived in SA and people would get excited because I’m Oliver Tambo’s daughter.   I got excited when they got excited.   She told me during an argument that she was sick of hearing about Oliver f***ing Tambo.  I slapped her around the face so hard my hand hurt.  I’m not proud of it.  I was, actually, as shocked as she was.  I had slapped her without premeditation.  It was over before I knew I was going to do it.  That was a very long time ago, 1990-early something.   Apart from that my tongue and brain have always served as excellent weapons.

Silence Mabuza taught me to punch and he’d say, ‘dukes up,’ every now and then which meant I had to keep my fists next to my ears or temples between punches.  After I’d been training for about a week and was feeling cocky I challenged him to a round.  He refused at first, so I goaded him that he was scared to take me on because, obviously, I was now a prizefighter.

He didn’t hit hard.  It didn’t hurt, but I didn’t like being hit.  I lasted a little under 20 seconds, and then I added a new rule.  He wasn’t allowed to punch me.  I thought that would level the playing field, but it didn’t.   I couldn’t land a punch on him no matter how hard I tried, and I really tried.  He had dancey feet and he would just duck out of the way.  I had a lot of fun, though.  He was serious.  He took it seriously, but he was fun.

You may not know Silence Mabuza, in which case you may be wondering why I keep dropping his name like it’s hot.  It’s because his name is hot, Dude!  He is the super Bantamweight World Champion.  He is, or he was.  I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter.  A World Champion Boxer, Silence Mabuza, trained me.  Yes, I’m proud to say.

To be honest I hated boxing.  I told him so when it was all over.  It was a bunch of boy’s stuff.  The gym was very nice and super trendy looking.  The real gyms, where real boxers train are not like this.  I know because I’ve seen them in the movies.  I wouldn’t want to go there.  No Million Dollar Baby here.

I lost my match.  Silence Mabuza told me afterwards that he thought I did very well, though I was a bit directionless.   He was kind.  I mean once a punch had been landed on my padded head I was finished.  I flailed about, landed a few lucky punches on my opponent and then it was over.  I could hardly breathe.  I had no idea what I had done.  I couldn’t think of a single thing that I’d been taught except ‘keep your dukes up’.  That at least prevented me from getting hit too much in the head.   After that match I had a headache for a week.

It was for charity and the charity got some money and that was all for the good.

One of my crowns fell out a couple of weeks later which held up shooting of the soap because I couldn’t be a toothless villain and the dentist takes a couple of days to get a new one made.  So, the charity made money, but it cost me, and the production.

Well, I won’t be doing the boxing thing for charity again.  I won’t do the boxing thing for anything ever again; but it was an experience.

The most fun thing was that we fought in a real boxing ring in Carnival City.  Silence boxingMabuza had won in that ring in the past.  We all had a signature tune as we came out to the ring and instructions to act all cocky and confident like they do on in the movies; holding our big gloved hands in the air in gestures of victory and all that.  My signature tune was Nkalakatha, by Mandoza.


About Tselane Tambo

I share myself in these desultory ramblings. It’s my thoughts and memories; some anecdotes and opinions. It’s an accidental autobiography. When you’ve meandered through these pages you’ll be within reach of a little piece of me. Thank you for dropping by.
This entry was posted in Nocturnal Ramblings of a Mind Unplugged. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to When I Was A Boxer

  1. Sel Hudson says:

    Great account! Even those experiences we are never to repeat, are worth while. I often think of boxing as barbaric. I can’t imagine watching my son or any other relative of mine for that matter, getting pummelled for the sake of entertainment.

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