Azola Moses, a 12-year-old girl who is in sixth grade, joined Mfuzo in January 2017.
“I saw that boxing was most important and special in Makhanda. My uncle was a boxer in high school. He inspired me a lot,” Moses said. The first time boxing I was very scared I was going to hurt myself. (Now) I feel like a strong person, my personality comes out more. The boxers in the gym inspired me to be a professional boxer.”
After her first win Moses told her uncle, who did not believe her. She also said her favorite thing about being a boxer is to go against other clubs in the area in order to make her club’s name more well-known.
Luyolo Nketsheni, an athletic 13-year-old girl in seventh grade who joined at the same time as Moses, enjoys the sense of community.
“I saw the other boxers in the area coming to the gym and followed them,” Nketsheni said.
“The whole community goes mad (when someone wins). When one of us succeeds the whole town celebrates,” Dyira said.
Nketsheni participates in four sports including boxing and dance. She has five medals (four in boxing, one in dance), a trophy for boxing and seven certificates (three for dance and four for academics). Nketsheni shrugs and says that it is not too much for her and she does it all so that she can get a scholarship for school. She wants to be either a veterinarian or a dramatic actor.
Despite the commitment from its students, Mfuzo Boxing Camp has faced its fair share of hardship.
“One of our challenges was with the school because boxing is seen as a violent sport,” Dibela said. “We had to show them that it’s not. We also invited teachers to come and see that we teach lessons like they do in school. They (the students) feel free because it’s like home. We are like second parents to them. We are always teaching and saying here to respect themselves first and others.”
Then there are the issues on the business side.
“We have focused on training for so long and ignored administration,” Dyira said. “Our training venue is not suitable for boxing. Transport to events is an issue; we get invites from neighboring towns, (and) the challenge is to go to them.”
Like any good boxer, the club fights back.
“Other coaches told me we were too small to produce good boxers. The other coaches see us growing now,” Dibela said.
“Love of boxing kept us going this long, as well as dedicated coaches and assistant coaches,” Dyira said. “We are going to be around until we die. We are looking for partners to help support us and teach us more tricks of the trade.”