On Tuesday evening I received this text message from George Khosi, coach of the Hillbrow Boxing Club:

there is an accident at the gym the ring is damaged by a tax coach

It took me a while to figure out that “tax” meant “taxi”. When I arrived at the gym the next day, it all became clear.

george and ring1

George and his ring. I nearly cried when I saw this.

On Tuesday afternoon at around 4:30 p.m., a minibus taxi driver lost control of his vehicle while trying to pass someone on a steep downhill. The taxi careened across the road, crashed through the fence of the Hillbrow Boxing Club, and straight into the boxing ring.

Tragically, a passing pedestrian was run over by the taxi and died under the ring.

Miraculously, the two people training in the ring at the time were unhurt. The ring, as you can see in the photos, was virtually destroyed.

james and ring

James, George’s trainer, surveys the damage. James was one of the two people in the ring when the taxi hit. I still don’t understand how he wasn’t hurt. I don’t think he does either.

james and ring iphone

I had to Instagram the damage, of course.

george and ring iphone

I took this photo with my phone when I first arrived.  It’s not the best photo but I think it really tells the story.

The driver of the taxi fled the scene on foot. In all the confusion, he wasn’t caught and as far as I know he hasn’t been found yet. Fortunately he left his license in the taxi so I truly hope the police do their jobs and nail this jerk.

I’ve written numerous times about George’s inspiring story and what his gym means to me, my friends, and the Hillbrow community, so I won’t go on about it now. (If you want a quick overview, read this article that I recently wrote for Gummie Magazine.) But you don’t need to know the back-story to understand that this was a devastating event on many levels. You can see the devastation in George’s face.

Fortunately though, the entire city of Johannesburg seems to be mobilizing to help. Yesterday we hastily set up an online fundraising page, which has already raised more than $600. Tomorrow evening there is a huge cycle ride through the city called Critical Mass. Critical Mass is having a “Block Party” in Hillbrow just up the street from the gym, and the organizers are coordinating a massive fundraising effort for George at the block party. (Learn more about Critical Mass.) The activists involved with Critical Mass are also working to raise support for all kinds of desperately needed improvements to the Hillbrow Boxing Club facilities.

Another weekend cycle ride, Tour de Jozi, will be passing through Hillbrow on Sunday morning and raising funds for the gym. There are more fundraisers in the works as well; follow the newly created Hillbrow Boxing Club Facebook page for updates.

I think some real good can come from this tragedy. Nothing can bring back the woman who died. But we can use this event to pull together and make a difference for George, the Hillbrow Boxing Club, and Hillbrow as a whole. George is already having a major impact in Hillbrow, but with the right support and exposure that impact can grow exponentially. Let’s make it happen.

Here are some things you can do right now to make a difference:

1) Join the Facebook page and/or donate online.

2) Come join us at Critical Mass tomorrow evening, if you live in Jozi. I’ve never participated before but I’ve heard it’s an amazing experience. Details on Facebook.

3) Tell your friends about all of the above.

I’ll leave it at that for now. Thanks to everyone who has already donated or provided support. George — and all of us who care about him — are grateful.

Hillbrow crew

My boxing crew after a recent amateur tournament at the Flamingo Hotel in Hillbrow.

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