He plans to help young­sters

Sunday World - - Front Page - BON­GANI MA­GASELA

IRVIN ‘‘ Pretty Boy ” Buh­lalu is hang­ing up his box­ing gloves af­ter 17 years in the ring.

The 39-year-old was part of the class of 1996 that rep­re­sented South Africa in the At­lanta Olympics Games, and was the only mem­ber of that golden gen­er­a­tion who was still ac­tive in the ring.

The for­mer South African and All Africa light­weight cham­pion said he had re­alised that the time had come to make way for the next gen­er­a­tion.

‘‘ My time is up as a fighter,” he said this week. ‘‘ I have so many things to do in life, in­clud­ing as­sist­ing young box­ers like Ri­cardo Hi­ra­man in the ring.”

Hi­ra­man is the only In­dian pro­fes­sional boxer in the coun­try.

Bahlalu, from Ch­ester­ville, Dur­ban, will be re­mem­bered for de­liv­er­ing a speech on be­half of then­pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela when the South African team ar­rived at the At­lanta Olympics.

Buh­lalu, Ma­si­bulele ‘‘ Hawk ” Makepula , Phillip “Time Bomb ” Ndou, Vic­tor Kunene and Soon Botes were the five box­ers in that team.

Though their par­tic­i­pa­tion ended in the sec­ond round, most of them went on to make names for them­selves in the pro­fes­sional ranks.

Kunene never turned pro­fes­sional. Makepula won the World Box­ing Union (WBU) and World Box­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tion ju­nior fly­weight and the In­ter­na­tional Box­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tion fly­weight ti­tles.

One of his no­table wins was against Ja­cob ‘‘ Baby Jake ” Mat­lala in Brak­pan on Fe­bru­ary 19 2000.

Ndou won the South African and World Box­ing As­so­ci­a­tion In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal feath­er­weight, and WBU and World Box­ing Coun­cil (WBC) In­ter­na­tional ju­nior light­weight ti­tles.

He lost to WBC light­weight cham­pion Floyd May­weather.

But Buh­lalu, who started his ca­reer un­der trainer Din­gane Mahlasela, could only cap­ture the South African and All Africa belts.

He said lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties pre- vented him from reach­ing the heights scaled by Ndou and Makepula.

“I could not leave my daily job and fo­cus on box­ing, hop­ing to be­come a world cham­pion, be­cause pro­mot­ers think of them­selves only.”

Even so, the fistic sport had been good to him, he said.

“I will now be groom­ing young­sters in Ch­ester­ville.”

He won 27 of his 37 fights. He de­fended the na­tional ti­tle six times be­fore los­ing it in 2008.

Buh­lalu re­mains the only na­tional box­ing cham­pion from that part of the coun­try.

‘‘ As a post of­fice em­ployee, I deal with dif­fer­ent crops of people ev­ery day, but I ’ m able to han­dle what­ever be­hav­iour be­cause of the ex­pe­ri­ence I learnt from box­ing. No mat­ter how good you are as a boxer, you must still re­spect the other boxer be­cause we are all hu­man be­ings. I am gone for­ever, good­bye as a boxer. ”

Buh­lalu saw no ac­tion in 2010, but fought once in 2011. He had one fight in 2012 and twice last year, win­ning one and los­ing the other. He then met Paul Ka­manga, a 23-year-old novice of eight wins, who knocked him out in the first round two week­ends ago in Soweto.

That was Buh­lalu ’ s swan­song.


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