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NELSON MANDELA, THE BOXER WHO STOPPED APARTHEID


PhilBoxing.com




Former South African President Nelson Mandela, the world's famous anti-apartheid revolutionary was a boxer and started joining the sport of fist fighting in 1936 at the Fort Hare University. He was able to balance his study in Bachelor of Arts with Christian beliefs and Bible studies along side his interest in boxing.

He was also into long distance running and ballroom dancing. As a fitness buff, he spent his free time in the gym lifting some weights. When he studied law at the University of Whitwatersrand, he was the only native African student. He fought the overwhelming racism and blatant discrimination against his color. But for the anti-apartheid leader, his engagement to boxing is just to escape the hardships of fighting racism.

He wrote in his autobiography ‘The Long Walk to Freedom’: "I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it. I was intrigued by how one moved one’s body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced oneself over a match.

"Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, color, and wealth are irrelevant ... I never did any real fighting after I entered politics.

"My main interest was in training; I found the rigorous exercise to be an excellent outlet for tension and stress. After a strenuous workout, I felt both mentally and physically lighter. It was a way of losing myself in something that was not the struggle. After an evening’s workout I would wake up the next morning feeling strong and refreshed, ready to take up the fight again."

In 1962 Mandela was arrested and convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the white government, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He served 27 years in prison, while his supporters lobbied untiringly for his release. His freedom was granted in 1990 in the thick of civil unrest in the country which gained international sympathy for the cause.

He negotiated with President F.W. de Klerk and apartheid was abolished. Elections were held in 1994, this time blacks were allowed to run and he led his African National Congress to victory becoming South Africa's first black President. He then formed the Government of National Unity to reduce racial conflicts and to unite his countrymen of all colors.

He used sports to bring together native Africans and Afrikaners. He let South Africa host the Rugby World Cup in 1995. John Carlin, author of the book "Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation," considered it as one of the finest moments in the world of sports.

The Soweto YMCA where Mandela used to train as a boxer is still open today and not much has been changed since the time he learned the basics of boxing. The great leader's love for boxing inspired a large number of poor men in South Africa to take up the superior sport and still use the same weights that Mandela used to lift.

At his trial Mandela uttered his now famous speech; ‘“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

Nelson Mandela died at age 95 surrounded by his family on December 5 after years of suffering from health ailments. "He is now resting. He is now at peace," President Jacob Zuma announced. "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."

The sports world lost a great boxing enthusiast who knocked out apartheid and became his country's first black President by unanimous decision.

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Click here to view a list of other articles written by Maloney L. Samaco.


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