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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