Boxing on the Streets of Yeoville

I went to another boxing tournament last weekend. This blog has been flooded with boxing posts lately and some of you may be tiring of all the bloodsport. But I can’t get enough. The training, the fans, the camaraderie, the coaches…Boxing is a major part of my life now. As James, one of George’s trainers at the Hillbrow Boxing Club, told me recently: “You have boxing in you.” I think he’s right.

Me and George, my coach, at the Hillbrow Boxing Club a few weeks ago. (Photo: Tertia Smit)

I love photographing boxing almost as much as I love boxing itself, and I’m particularly pleased with the photos I took last weekend. The tournament was in Yeoville, yet another inner city suburb known for its colorful history and rampant crime. An open-air boxing ring was set up in the middle of a park on Rockey Street. Like the previous tournament I attended in Hillbrow, there was a series of three-round bouts, with competitors ranging from young kids to adults. Several of George’s fighters competed.

Boxing under the trees in Yeoville.

I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story.

Ten-year-old Dumo, the youngest competitor of the day, prepares for his fight. The outdoor ring is ready and waiting behind him. 

Dumo, the cutest boxer of all time, kitted out and ready to rumble. This was his first fight.

Dumo squares up against his opponent. Unlike the older guys, who fight three-minute rounds, the kids fight one-minute rounds and are monitored extra closely by the official. Dumo didn’t win, but he hung in there like a champ. His opponent was four years older than he was.

Serious fans.

Knock-out. The guy on the right, one of George’s boxers, won this fight in the first ten seconds.

George (left) and Roger, who also won his fight on a knock-out. Roger’s uncle (right) and George were both very proud. I think George has big plans for Roger.

No boxing post is complete without a portrait of Sandile, George’s friendliest and most photogenic boxer.

Young fans enjoy popsicles during the intermission between the junior and senior bouts.

Hung like a…donkey?

DJ Bongo kept the audience entertained throughout the day.

Ah yes. The police tape makes sense now. 

Intensity.

This is T.K., one of the regulars at George’s gym. He is crazy. In a good way.

“What are you doing here, crazy white camera-lady?”

Best-dressed man at the tournament. His name is Joe and he’s a regular on the Joburg boxing scene. George says he was a very good boxer back in the day.

I saved my favorite frame for last.

Three years ago, if you’d asked me what I thought about boxing, I would have said I thought it was cruel and barbaric. I specifically remember commenting, “Why would anyone want to compete in a sport in which the express purpose is to hit the other person until he falls down?” But as I’ve learned all too well, things change.

As I stood below the ropes and looked up at these guys, swinging away at each other in the crisp autumn air with hundreds of people cheering them on, I suddenly thought, “I want to be up there.” Whether or not I actually will get up there remains to be seen. But at that moment, I wanted to.

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26 Comments

  • Reply bloues May 15, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    What’s your take on the rugby scene in South Africa? Now that you have fully embraced our boxing.

    • Reply 2summers May 15, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      I like rugby very much. Here’s a blog post I wrote about it last year: http://2summers.net/2011/05/01/rugby-really-not-a-game-for-sissies/

      • Reply bloues May 15, 2012 at 3:09 pm

        Just read your post about the rugby. It was a good one. Did you see the Bulls play in pink now?

        • Reply 2summers May 15, 2012 at 3:20 pm

          Actually no, I didn’t realize that!

      • Reply bloues May 15, 2012 at 3:29 pm

        Some of my posts actually have a picture or two of them clad in pink. It’s only for the overseas leg of their tour and the one away game in Cape Town because the Stormers also play in blue.

        It’s probably the best marketing ploy ever in SA rugby because those jerseys flew off the shelves. But, when they return to Loftus, they will don the blue shirts again. I must say, this year’s jerseys look stunning!

  • Reply Todd May 15, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    God, I love boxing! Keep’em coming! Great shots!

    • Reply 2summers May 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks Todd! Hope you’re well.

  • Reply slowspirit May 15, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Too much hitting and posturing in the world … Couldn’t we be introducing young boys to say, gardening for their physical and mental exercise?

    • Reply 2summers May 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      I like the idea of gardening too. Unfortunately there are very few gardens in Yeoville and Hillbrow. 🙂

      I hear what you’re saying though. I agree that boxing might not be the ideal sport for young kids. But the bottom line is, these kids have very few options. Anything that gets them excited to train and compete, and keeps them off the streets, is a good thing in my opinion.

      • Reply slowspirit May 15, 2012 at 3:39 pm

        I understand what you’re saying about the gardening 🙂 … but it worries me that (especially) boys get used to equating punching with glory; hitting with winning; hurting with pleasure… And there is so much research now showing that the developing brain is so vulnerable to pressure. If a boy was hitting a boy around the head in the street we would rightly be angered but we let it happen in the name of sport? I just really don’t get it.

        • Reply 2summers May 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm

          Boxing in a ring, with headgear and a mouthguard and a referee, is nothing like just standing in the street and hitting someone in anger. Also, boxing is 99.9% about training, fitness, and discipline, and .1% about hitting another person.

          So far, every boxer and trainer who I’ve met at George’s gym is gentle, kind, and intelligent. I haven’t detected a single bit of aggression outside the ring. They use the sport of boxing as a way to discipline themselves, not as a way to release aggression. It’s these qualities that have drawn me toward the sport, even though I used to feel exactly the same way as you do!

          All I can say is, you have to come and see it to understand.

          • bloues May 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm

            The problem is that, what most people see, is the arrogant stars on tv. These guys have already forgotten what it is to compete in a sport just for sheer enjoyment. When you watch any sport at grass roots level, you can see that the people are passionate about it. They respect each other and they are disciplined.

            I handled an under 15 rugby match on Saturday and it was an enjoyable experience. The boys respected my decisions and there was a general feeling of sportsmanship towards each other.

            Later that day I was assistant referee for the first teams. There we had two teams consisting of spoiled brats with no respect for each other and the officials. In didn’t enjoy that match at all.

          • 2summers May 15, 2012 at 4:01 pm

            Yep. So true.

      • Reply bloues May 15, 2012 at 3:41 pm

        I agree. Boxing, like football, is sport that can be practiced on the streets. Young kids can be coached life skills by playing a sport and these two sports provides this.

        I wonder how many of today’s sport stars, especially in Africa and South America, comes from poor communities. Many of these guys got an opportunity to a better life that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Many of them ploughs their new found wealth back into their home communities in the same manner Bob Marley tried to uplift the situation in his home country of Jamaica.

  • Reply Owls May 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Hate to be the family historian, but here we go. Your great grandfather James McDonald Wellford was an avid boxer and worked out at the Commonwealth Club in Richmond, VA. He was not unknown to engage in the street-corner fist fight in white tie and tails if he saw a member from a rival gang standing there. Your cousin Armistead also boxes for stress relief with an Irish friend here. It most certainly is in your blood.

    • Reply 2summers May 15, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      Thank you for being the family historian, as I had no idea about any of that! Maybe Armistead and I can box together someday.

      • Reply Owls May 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm

        Yeah, he boxes with Dermot Rooney here in Richmond. Dermot’s father Mervyn boxed for the British Army, and his brother Charles boxed for Cambridge. Dermot runs a similar boxing club for neighborhood youths in Oregon Hill where Hollywood Cemetery is. He’s a big strapping Irish dude and a lot of fun. He’ll take you on.

  • Reply slowspirit May 15, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Is there a class element to this too? I feel uneasy that boxing is seen as perfect for the poor kids – middle-classes don’t send their kids to boxing lessons… Your upper arms look fantastically tight though and that’s somethign I could do with! Good luck with your training 🙂

    • Reply 2summers May 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm

      Certainly, boxing is popular in “poor” communities. It’s much cheaper and more accessible than, say, tennis, or swimming. But then again, so is soccer, which is popular in rich and poor communities alike. And then again, boxing is pretty trendy in the wealthy parts of society these days, too. I discovered boxing from a personal trainer in downtown Washington D.C. who charged US$70 an hour (back when I could afford such things). That personal trainer grew up in a “poor” neighborhood in Washington, which is where HE discovered boxing. Get my drift?

      And you’re right — boxing is great for the arms!

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough May 15, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Looks like a pretty good crowd gathered. And you’re right. It’s amazing how just a little time changes things–how we think, what we feel. Another great boxing post, Heather.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    • Reply 2summers May 16, 2012 at 10:05 am

      Thanks Kathy! Glad you’re still enjoying them.

  • Reply iaafphotography May 16, 2012 at 5:57 am

    great…great….great..

    • Reply 2summers May 16, 2012 at 10:04 am

      Thank you…thank you…thank you. 🙂

  • Reply Joshi Mukard May 18, 2012 at 6:07 am

    In the first photo, which has you and your coach….it looks like you broke your coach’s head and blood streaming down…..hahahahahaha, LOL!!

    I haven’t been reading much of blogs these days, got too engrossed with photography!!

    Need to catch up all your posts!!

    • Reply 2summers May 18, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Ha! George perspires a lot 🙂

      Glad to have you back, Joshi. I understand what you mean about photography.

  • Reply Rebecca June 9, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Awesome action shots!

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