By Jonk wa Mashamba
John Bopape believed in victory all his life and had already prepared himself for the hectic battle.
His couch was tough on him, which is why he won. He says he’s been in the fighting fraternity for six years.
“I’ve always wanted to be a boxer,” Section 29, as Bopape is lovingly called in boxing circles, told Alex Reporter on Alex FM offices recently.
In an interview with Ranku Mahlodi, he was joined by trainer Bushy Mabele, marketing director Rhandzu and his boxing colleagues.
He says he was an amateur boxer for a year and five years as a professional boxer.
“I think I still have another 10 years in boxing,” he said.
Bopape toppled Nkululeko ‘Bulldog’ Mhlongo with an eleventh knockout round in a difficult tournament held at Dr Petrus Molemela Indoors Sport Center in Mangaung on the 29th April.
Before he was called ‘Section 29’, his first nickname that associated him with bravery was Tarzan, because he used to walk barefooted.
He says he was strong and never afraid of what would come his way
Regarding Bopape’s nickname “”, Mabele told SowetanLive that his fighter used to bunk training.
“Back then you would be arrested if police patrolling the streets found you loitering around the streets during the day; the charge was Section 29.
“So, I jokingly warned John that he could find himself behind bars if he continued bunking gym and he will be charged under Section 29, and funny I began calling him that and it stuck with him.”
Tarzan found it very easy to fall in love with boxing because his father was a staunch supporter of Mike Tyson and Muhammed Ali.
According to SowetanLive, he dedicated his middleweight belt to all the “beautiful” people in Gomorrah, as Alex is affectionately called.
Bopape’s trainer, Mabele, 71, says it is for that reason that the champion’s victory is so special.
“I am still asking myself if this is for real,” Mabele said told SowetanLive.
“It’s a bittersweet moment for me because I am old. I want to get somebody with passion to take over from me.
” I grew up with this sport which requires respect, passion and hard work. I boxed first before becoming a trainer.”
According to SowetanLive, Mabele and Bopape have been loyal to each other even when the boxer was losing fights to opponents he should have easily dispatched.
Their union is similar to that of the trainer Theo Mthembu and the fighter Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala.
The pint-sized fighter was written off as a no hope, but Mthembu stood by him and later on the shortest boxer in the world won the WBO, WBU and IBA belts, and the very detractors who advised him to quit, sang his praises.
Bopape praised the residents of Alexandra for their support.
“The love they showed me on my arrival from Bloemfontein was touching,” said the 30-year-old father of three boys who still lives in Alexandra.
“The street was full with people welcoming us. I did not expect that type of reception; it was overwhelming.
“That is why I am dedicating this title to all Gomorra residents. “I am the first SA champion for my coach and this is very special to us and Alexandra.”
Bopape has 90 days to enjoy his reign before making a voluntary defence against an opponent of choice from the top 10 ratings.
The boxer who always thanks his mother for raising him in a responsible manner, encouraged aspiring boxers to be patient in whatever they were doing.
“Nothing comes over night. You have to work harder.”
(1 Section 29 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 108 1996 provides. That “everyone has the right – (a) to basic education, including adult basic education. (b) to further education, which the state through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible”.)