Duncan Village gym operates from one room in an old building and still manages to train boxing champions, inspiring the township.
Mzamo Njekanye opened a boxing academy in Duncan Village in 2003 to offer young people in his community the chance he never had.
The Duncan Village Boxing Academy is run from one room in an old building that used to be a school. It barely has enough equipment for all the boxers and some equipment is old and broken. But the school has trained champions.
“Boxing didn’t take me far, but I wanted to give the younger people in the community where I grew up an opportunity that I never received,” says Njekanye. “I believe sport is one of the tools that one can use to take the youth away from drugs and crime.”
He says the people who come to his gym are from informal settlements. “They come from homes where there is unemployment, where social grants are the source of income. Some are orphans and might never get the chance to study beyond grade 12.”
“With boxing, they have the opportunity of making something of themselves, and taking themselves and their families out of poverty,” says Njekanye.
The gym takes children age eight, for two hours, five days a week. With limited equipment and no sponsors, Njekanye depends on the kindness of people for donations and buys gym equipment from his own pocket.
When GroundUp arrived, a group of children were waiting at the door for the gym to open at 5 pm. “I don’t do this as a business. This is something that I love. Any child that comes to this gym is my reward,” said Njekanye. He earns his living as a municipal worker.
The academy has produced quality boxers such as Thobo Sishwane, the first professional boxer to come out of the academy, and Xolisani “Nomeva” Ndongeni who is undefeated after 22 matches. He is currently in America at the Floyd Mayweather gym.
Two of the boxers, Azinga “Golden Boy” Fuzile and Khanyiso Biko, both from Duncan Village, have been at the gym for years.
Fuzile started at the gym in 2006 when he was just ten years old. He currently holds three titles in the featherweight division, including the South African title.
Fuzile says he lives and breathes boxing. “This is all I want to do. “When I see the people I grew up with, I wonder if my life would have been the same if I hadn’t found boxing,” says Fuzile.
Another boxer, Khanyiso Siko, 20, is currently working to improve his matric results so he can study business management next year. He started at the gym in 2008.
“Some of my friends were attending the gym and I would come with them sometimes. At first, I came only when I was bored. Then I fell in love with it.”
“I won my first fight and I’ve never stopped since then,” said Siko.