Sunday Tribune

Desmond Pillay


vice-like grip on sport.

Even boxing great Muhammad Ali lent Pillay his ears on a long-distance telephone call and interacted with the promoter during his visit to South Africa in 1993.

When Pillay was not dealing with ring-related matters, he was a celebrated Singer sewing machine salesman and key component in the US company’s operations in KZN.

After the success and the popularity Pillay gained from the 1977 Westridge tournament, car dealership company Datcentre drew him into their fold as a salesman in their Dr Pixley Kaseme (West) Street branch.

Datcentre’s management had no qualms with boxers, who were due to appear in Pillay’s tournament­s, sparring in a ring the matchmaker propped in their front display.

It was inventive, eyecatchin­g and usually reduced the flow of traffic to a trickle, much to his bosses’ delight.

As a 4-year-old, Pillay was floored by boxing’s mix of blood, brutal force, gamesmansh­ip and subtleties while watching a tournament in 1942.

The setting for the punchfest was the lounge of a “whites-only” hotel.

His father, Jimmy Hyman, was the first bus operator on the South Coast and therefore a prominent figure in Umkomaas, who was afforded certain liberties.

Pillay got hooked on boxing that day and soon he was getting to grips with the exploits of legends like Jack Johnson and Joe Louis.

Locally, he was in awe of fighters like Kid Sathamoney, Seaman Chetty, Bandy Pillay, John Joshua and Larry Gengan, Harry Naidoo and Barry Vandiar.

A large wood-and-iron home in Umkomaas was another comfort Hyman provided for his family, and Pillay had fond memories of the fruit and vegetable plantation­s around his home.

After completing his primary education at Naidoo Memorial, Pillay did his high school studies via correspond­ence and completed standard eight before moving to Sydenham to run the family business.

At 13, Pillay managed a busy shop on Burnwood Road, coping well with the huge responsibi­lity thrust on him.

By then, his love affair with boxing was in full bloom. He was training at a local gym and the walls of his shop were plastered with boxing pictures and posters.

Waking at 4am to receive a delivery of milk and the long hours of retail were weighing

 ??  ?? Pillay with a glove autographe­d by Muhammad Ali.
Pillay with a glove autographe­d by Muhammad Ali.

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