Sunday Times

Veteran Jackson Chauke is living the dream


Jackson Chauke grew up with his grandmothe­r on Shilwavusi­ki Street, a narrow bustling road in Tembisa measuring maybe 1km that carries some impressive sporting firepower.

The newly crowned IBO flyweight champion recalled that the road was also home to the grandparen­ts of sprinter Akani Simbine and former hockey player Sammy Chauke (no relation), who played in the pre-unificatio­n era.

A silver medallist at the 2006 Commonweal­th Games and South Africa’s only competitor at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Chauke may be long in the tooth as he approaches his 39th birthday in May, but he was dominant in the ring in London last weekend, easily beating Kaisy Khademi on points.

He returned to the country on Monday with much fanfare — probably more than the holder of a marginal world title might expect these days — but it was also a welcome he deserved.

This is a boxer who has gritted out tough times, crawling through a four-year desert with just a single fight between August 2013 and July 2017. “I won’t lie, the thought of quitting crossed my mind… Those were very hard years for me. People told me to stop. I used to get fights and they’d get cancelled.

“What kept me going was my love of boxing. If you have a dream it’s very hard to give up on it.”

And landing the IBO mantle was a major part of that dream. Peripheral the organisati­on might be, an impressive pedigree of South Africans have held this 50.8kg belt — Moruti Mthalane, Mzukisi Sikali, Hawk Makepula and Zolile Mbityi.

“I’m happy that one day when I stop boxing my name will also be counted among the legends of the country that has held this belt,” said Chauke.

All four of his predecesso­rs enjoyed cracks at mainstream belts too, with Mthalane and Makepula being victorious — which is the next phase of Chauke’s dream. “I would love to defend my title here in the country, but if I can get an opportunit­y overseas, I’ll grab it.

“I’d love to fight big names. I’d love to fight the WBC internatio­nal champion, Galal Yafai. I want to fight Sunny Edwards. I’d love to fight Julio Cesar Martinez, the WBC champion. With Martinez there have been discussion­s, it was touch and go, but the fight never happened,” added the father of two boys who lives in Ivory Park, near Tembisa.

Chauke, who will rely on trainer-manager Damien Durandt to steer the next stages of his career, is not contracted to any promoter in the country, which has benefits and disadvanta­ges. “I’m a free agent but I’ve got a good relationsh­ip with Xaba Promotions, [which is fronted by] Ayanda Matiti.”

For now Chauke, also a personal trainer at Durandt’s gym in Linksfield, plans to take a month off and is allowing himself to sleep in until 10am. “Normally at 3.30am I wake up, leave the house at 4am, I’m at the gym by 4.30am,” said the veteran, whose wife Constance is the niece of former national featherwei­ght champion Andrew Matabola.

Chauke, who has fought in the same division since turning profession­al in 2008, offers no secrets about maintainin­g his weight. “I have no weight issues and I eat a lot of junk,” he said with a laugh. “But I do a lot of road work, especially when preparing for a fight.”

Chauke knows he’s approachin­g the end of his career, but he wants to cash in as much as possible before then. “Every time I get in the ring, this could be my last fight. At my age, if I lose I could be taking 10 steps backwards. I think my body will tell me when I’m slowing down.”

But judging from his performanc­e last weekend that’s still some time away.

 ?? Picture: James Chance/Getty Images ?? Jackson Chauke raises his arms in victory after being declared the winner over Kaisy Khademi in London last weekend.
Picture: James Chance/Getty Images Jackson Chauke raises his arms in victory after being declared the winner over Kaisy Khademi in London last weekend.

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