From the Wrong Side of the Tracks...CHAPTER 20 | Boxing come back

During the first week in March 1992 my friend and Second in Command called me into his office.

He said that I had to be in Port Elizabeth during the following week and that I had to report to a certain warrant officer that would be assisting us with a two weeks’ fitness training camp. The fitness camp was to prepare for the Police Boxing Championships in Pretoria taking place during the second week of April 1992.

I looked at him and laughed. Certainly he was joking? He said he was dead serious. He had entered me into the Police Boxing Championships as a Super Heavy weight. I was weighing about ninety one kilograms at the time.

I explained to him I had not boxed in a boxing ring for at least ten years. My last boxing match was ten years ago when I won the Police Extra Heavyweight Championships. I had not put on a pair of boxing gloves in all the years following that match.

‘That is why I entered you, you are going to make a comeback after ten years, and win it again.’

I could not believe my ears and wondered whether I heard him correctly. As it turned out, he was serious.

Two weeks later I was in Port Elizabeth, coughing cigarettes and sweating brandy in the Gym. Arriving in Pretoria I knew that this was a mistake. I am not boxing fit and the chances of a serious injury were huge. What the hell, I’ll give it my best shot, I convinced myself. There were still a lot of the old police boxers from my boxing days in the 80’s that now had become trainers. When they heard I was there as a boxer not a trainer, some of them could only shake their heads.

‘So. Who is the one I should be afraid of in my weight division?’

They told me his surname and when I admitted having no knowledge of this boxer, they could not believe it. But it was true. I have never heard of him. Apparently he has knocked out all his opponents he ever fought against. I was told he just hits much harder than his opponents.

‘Ah man. Not again. What did I let myself in for?

There were only three boxers in my weight division. The Championship started theFriday night and lucky for me, I had a bye, meaning, I went straight to the Finals on the Saturday night. Saturday night I would be fighting the winner of the two boxers that fought the Friday night.

I watched my opponent getting into the ring. The new police sensation, was a big built, heavily muscled boxer. I could see why he knocked out all his opponents. He had arms like tree stumps.

The first fight started and the new police sensation’s opponent was a tall boxer about the same length as me. The tall guy put up a good fight boxing and not fighting his heavier opponent, but in the second round he went down as a result of a blow to the rib cage. I saw and heard the punch from ring side. The tall boxer did not get up. I’m sure he had a broken rib or two. So, it was me and the big guy in the finals.

My good friend that entered me, had travelled with me to the Championships. I asked him if he saw what had just happened. He laughed and said

‘You’ll take him any day, don’t worry.’

I felt like knocking him down on his arse for that facetious comment.

My mom, being my biggest fan since I had started boxing, heard from my sister that I was boxing again. That Saturday evening my mom and sisters and some family of mine all arrived at the venue. My mom gave me a good tongue lashing, asking me if I was crazy.

‘You have not boxed in years. You are going to get injured.’

I knew all those things myself. I assured her though, that I am in peak condition and that I had been training for months and she had nothing to worry about. Of course, that was all a lie.

I was not in a good frame of mind ahead of this fight. I said to my corner man that I don’t think I will last even two rounds fitness wise, so I am going to give it all I got in the first round. If I survive the first round, we should really think of retiring the second round.

‘What shit are you talking?’ my friend and corner man said.

‘Go and kill him.’

Just before the bell went for the first round, I caught a glimpse of my family sitting ring side. There was a worried look on my mom’s face. I could not afford to make a fool of myself here in front of them tonight, I thought. I decided there and then that I was not going to go down here tonight. I owed my mom for supporting me all those years at the boxing tournaments.

As a young boy boxing, she used to sweat in the kitchen of the venues. Normally church halls or boxing clubs, making jaffles (a traditional South African delicacy) and pancakes to sell to the crowd. She would regularly peep out of the kitchen when I was fighting. So no, I was definitely not going to disappoint her here tonight.

The bell for the first round rang and I moved to the middle of the ring to take control. During his fight the previous night, I noticed my opponent carried his right hand very low, throwing his hard punches from his middle. By doing this he exposed his jaw for a left hook. I always had a good left hand. In most of my fights I used my left hand scoring points with long straight jabs and left hooks. It was only later in my boxing career I started using my right hand to good effect by knocking opponents out.

My opponent was a tough fighter and I could see that he wanted to move in on me all the time. I kept him away from me with straight and hard left jabs. Halfway through the first round, he connected with a massive body blow. Having watched how he ended the fight the previous night by dropping his opponent with a right cross to the ribs I was aware of his tactics. As a result, I kept my elbows tucked in, which protected my ribs from that blow.

Even though I had my elbows covering my ribs, I still felt that punch. It took a lot of air out of my lungs. I attacked immediately. I moved in fast and that surprised him. I connected with a beautiful left hook on that open jaw and I could see that he was hurt. He dropped both his arms very low and left his head unprotected. Immediately, I moved in closer and connected him with a massive right hook on his jaw sending a pain up my shoulder. But it was a good pain. He collapsed and laid flat on the canvas for the full count.

Amoure Kleu Author, Andre Els Chapter 20, From the wrong side of the tracks, Boxing Comeback

A Right hook drops my opponent

Amoure Kleu Author, Andre Els Chapter 20, From the wrong side of the tracks, Boxing Comeback

Winning Police Championship with KO 1st Round

All of the sudden me, the old has been, was now the new Police Super heavy weight Champion. Not only I was surprised at what just happened, but so were some professional promoters sitting next to the ring eyeing my opponent. He had a good future ahead of him as a professional boxer and they wanted to sign him up. However, this fight showed that he did not have a solid jaw. He never became a professional boxer.

After the fight I approached him and thanked him for the fight. He said to me that he had never been hit that hard in all his fights. I took it as a compliment. As I walked away, I thought to myself that I never had to hit so hard. It was desperation fueling that knock out.

Amoure Kleu Author, Andre Els Chapter 20, From the wrong side of the tracks, Boxing Comeback

Amoure Kleu Author, Andre Els Chapter 20, From the wrong side of the tracks, Boxing Comeback

Some Police Boxing Medals awarded in Championship Fights

Chapter 20

A clipping from a George newspaper showing the two resident boxers chosen for the Springbok trials

After the Championships I was chosen for the Springbok Trials for the Olympic Games in Barcelona taking place later that year. I attended the trials, but lost to a boxer that I could have beaten any day of the week in the past. The fight went the full rounds, but I was not fit enough and my heart was not in it anymore. Only two South African boxers went to the Olympics in Barcelona that year and it was in the light fly weight and welter weight divisions. They did not advance to the finals as both lost their first bouts at the Olympics

Amoure Kleu Author, Andre Els Chapter 20, From the wrong side of the tracks, Boxing Comeback

Image from Shutterstock

If you enjoyed our blog, please share!