In my previous post, I showed you photos from the early fights of last weekend’s “Power to the Women” professional boxing tournament. Those first few fights were entertaining, but they paled in comparison with what was to come.
This tournament included two “title fights” — fights in which one fighter was the current South African champion in her weight class, and the other fighter was challenging her for that title.
The first of the two title fights was between Gabisile Tshabalala, the current South African junior featherweight champion, and her challenger, Nomvelo Mgcaba. When Gabisile came dancing into the ring to a tune by Zahara, with an entourage of trainers dancing around her, I knew this would be interesting. The crowd in the gym had suddenly swelled. It was loud.
I’m an American sports fan and I like athletes with attitude. Gabby’s GOT IT.
The two women began to fight. I was mesmerized.
This has nothing to do with anything, but both Gabby and Nomvelo are beautiful. If they weren’t boxers they could be supermodels. (Gabicile, if you’re reading this, I hope you don’t mind my calling you Gabby. I don’t want to get on your bad side but you just look like a Gabby to me.)
I think Gabby is winding up for a big hit here.
To my disappointment, this fight didn’t last long. I forgot to take note of exactly when it happened, but Gabby took Nomvelo down in the second or third round. (The fight was scheduled for ten rounds.)
Watching Gabby dance out of the ring was equally as entertaining as watching her dance into it.
Fortunately there was still another title fight to come: Bantamweight champion Bukiwe Nonina against challenger Precious Mphahlele. This fight would go the distance.
Bukiwe on the left, Precious on the right.
These two boxers were so fit, so skilled, and so evenly matched. They fought ten hard rounds and neither one ever let up. Each movement was precise – powerful, yet controlled.
I was electrified and shot hundreds of photos, although very few of them captured what the fight really looked and felt like.
Strangely, the two girls even look kind of alike.
I ask you again: HOW does she walk in those? She must have been so tired by the end of the night.
Even between rounds, Bukiwe is calm and collected.
As the rounds wore on, the atmosphere — both inside and outside the ring — kept building. At one point I climbed to the top of the bleachers and stood among Bukiwe’s boisterous fans, heart thumping. About 80% of the spectators were women.
The bell rang to end the tenth round. I scrambled up into the ring to capture the announcement of the winner. (I was hesitant to take this liberty at first, but no one seemed to mind.) I had no idea who would win.
An important-looking man made a speech. He said this was the fight of the year. Then an important-looking woman made a speech. I can’t remember what she said. The wait seemed so interminable to me. I can’t imagine how it must have felt for Bukiwe and Precious.
Finally, the moment of truth.
In this case, a picture really does say a thousand words. On one side, joy and exhilaration. On the other side, disappointment and pain.
Bukiwe is still the champ.
I followed Bukiwe’s jubilant posse to her dressing room. It was bedlam in there.
A joyful, almost-all-female posse. I love the expression of the random guy crammed in among all those women.
I visited Precious’ dressing room too, where the mood was decidedly more somber. Precious was clearly devastated. I think she’ll be back though.
Precious (left) and Rita, my friend from the Hillbrow Boxing Club who happens to be a South African title-holder herself. Rita is defending her title this October.
The title fights were great, but the major highlights of the evening (for me at least) were the two fights featuring women from the Hillbrow Boxing Club. I’ll tell you about those in the next post.