From the Wrong Side of the Tracks...CHAPTER 13 | Police Boxing Championships in Pretoria

During the same year I joined the Riot Squad, I had a call from the police sporting office in Pretoria. They informed me I had to get ready and fit for the police boxing championship tournament in Pretoria. After my dad’s death, I started losing interest in boxing. I was playing rugby for the police and the rugby training was not as demanding as the boxing training. I also started drinking alcohol and smoking. Both a taboo if you wanted to be in top shape for boxing.

The person who would accompany five of us, all policemen from the East London area for the Police boxing tournament in Pretoria, were none other than our Riot Squad Colonel. He used to be a boxer in his younger days. We would have a week of preparation and training in Pretoria before the tournament started. He was going to oversee our preparation and training and be our coach and corner man during the tournament.

We were going to travel by train and were to meet at the train station. The Colonel had not yet arrived, and we bought two cases of beer between us for the long train journey. The cases of beer were put underneath one of the bunks in one of our compartments. Out of sight. As the train was about to leave the station, the Colonel arrived.

He greeted us all, and we sat chatting with him in his compartment. After a while, he said,

‘Now guys, it looks to me this is going to be a long boring dry trip as I don’t see that any of you have anything to drink.’

We smiled and thought this Colonel was going to be a great sport outside of the working environment. We quickly brought the two cases of beer out of its hiding place and showed him we have indeed planned to take care of the long, boring trip ahead.

‘Is that all you guys have to drink?’ he asked.

‘Yes, but we can always make a plan and get more in the next town when the train stops.’

He smiled and said,

‘You tricky bastards. I knew you guys would be drinking, and that is not going to happen on this trip. You will be training and I will be watching you.’

With that, he gave our beers to a thrilled ticket inspector.

Arriving in Pretoria, we stayed at the Police College where we would be training. We quickly heard from the grapevine who were the favourites to win championship titles in the different weight divisions.

I was in the Heavy weight division. There was a new boxing sensation in Pretoria by the name of Pierre Coetzer. We did our preparation and training through the week under the watchful eye of our Colonel. The tournament started the Friday after we arrived. Police boxers from all over the country were there. I fought a policeman from Kimberley that Friday night and knocked him out at the beginning of the second round.

Amoure Kleu Author, Andre Els Chapter 13, From the wrong side of the tracks, Police Boxing Championships in Pretoria

Boxing my way into the finals in the SA Police Championships

My Colonel was in the corner, shouting advice at me. At the end of the first round, he was very excited. The last time I saw him that excited was on our SWAT training exercises when somebody was about to step on one of the booby traps he planted. He would hide the booby traps whilst we were doing a house penetration exercise.

Only two of us went through to the finals that were held on Saturday night. Our other three Border Colleagues did not make it and lost in the semi-finals. My opponent in the final was Pierre Coetzer. A Pretoria based policeman known for his hard punching. His name was well known in the amateur boxing circles in the past year. He won all his fights with knockouts.

Before my fight, my Border colleague won his fight in the middleweight division. With that, we had one police champion from the Border area. My Colonel was very happy.

‘Let us make it two, André,’ he said while I was gloving up.

‘I am going to do my best, Colonel,’ I said and laughed.

My fight started, and I saw and felt why Pierre was such a sensation. He was fast and had an extremely hard punching power. I think I surprised him. I was a little taller than him and I was also a boxer. Not a fighter, as most heavy weights were. I always had a good long reach with my left hand, and I kept him away with long, straight jabs.

At the end of the first round, I was ahead on points. My Colonel was shouting advice and throwing punches in the air, showing me how it should be done.

The beginning of the second round started well. I could see Pierre was getting a bit frustrated because he could not connect with solid hard punches to my body. During the middle of the second round, he feinted a left jab. I moved down to duck it. Too late, I realized I was suckered. He connected with a thunderous right hook full on my nose. I saw stars and immediately felt something was wrong with my nose. Blood squirted out of both my nostrils. I knew I was hurt and did what they taught every boxer to do in a situation like that. Go down on your knees on the canvass and take the count so it can give you time to recover.

I kneeled on the canvass till the count of six and I was standing on eight. Blood still flowing freely out of both my nostrils. The ref gave me one look. He stopped the fight and led me to my corner. I was furious. I was perfectly Ok to continue fighting. Only my nose was bleeding heavily. As I got into my corner, the Colonel threw a wet towel over my face and grabbed my nose and pulled on it. I heard the cartilage crack. What the hell are you doing I asked him.

‘Your nose is broken, and it is completely skew. I am trying to put it back in place,’ he said.

I was very upset about the fight being stopped. I felt somebody tapped me on my back while I was standing in the corner with my back to the ring. The colonel was putting my nose back in place and tried to stop the bleeding.

I ignored the tap, and when this person tapped me on the shoulder, again I said,

’Just fuck off’ thinking it was the ref.

I saw my Colonel’s eyes go big.

 ‘André just turn around’.

I did. Before me stood the South African Commissioner of Police. He attended the tournament and got into the ring to congratulate us on a good fight. Well, not so good for me, but what the hell, I can say I swore at the Commissioner of police.

We left the Police Boxing Championships with one Gold and one silver medal. By then I had two blue eyes and a serious, crooked, broken nose. Our Colonel was a very proud man leaving Pretoria with us.

Amoure Kleu Author, Andre Els Chapter 13, From the wrong side of the tracks, Police Boxing Championships in Pretoria

Going down after Pierre Coetzer broke my nose

Amoure Kleu Author, Andre Els Chapter 13, From the wrong side of the tracks, Police Boxing Championships in Pretoria


Congratulated by Commissioner of Police

In 1983, I returned to Pretoria for the annual Police Boxing Championship and won my gold medal in the Extra Heavy weight division. That would be the end of my boxing career, or so I thought. By this time, the man that broke my nose had turned professional.

Pierre Coetzer

Pierre turned professional boxer in 1983.

In 1984, he knocked out Bennie Knoetze in the third round and became the South African Heavyweight Champion.

Pierre went on to fight guys like:

Riddick Bowe, Frank Bruno, George Foreman

I personally think Pierre Coetzer was the best Heavy weight that came out of South Africa ever. I am not saying this because he put me on the canvas and broke my nose…

His professional record reads:

44 Professional fights.

39 Wins.

27 Knock outs.

5 Losses.

Amoure Kleu Author, Andre Els Chapter 13, From the wrong side of the tracks, Police Boxing Championships in Pretoria

Image by zamuruev from depositphotos

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