Five great SA trainers
South Africa has had some great trainers over the past 60 years but the question is, what makes a great trainer?
There are a number of attributes that make a good trainer and they are patience, caring for their fighters, and expecting dedication and hard work from their fighters.
Going back 60 years in South African boxing, Job Sebalo, Norman Hlabane, Theo Mthembu, Richard Samuels, and David Motsumi definitely had these qualities.
Job Sebalo, who lived in Sophiatown before moving to Rockville, was a principal at a school in Soweto and spent a lot of time after hours training both amateur and professional fighters.
Job, together with Rueben Mosoeu, was one of the founder members of the Chappie Blackburn Boxing Club in Meadowlands.
Among the boxers who were trained and managed by Sebalo and Mosoeu were South African welterweight champion Fondie “Iron Man” Mavuso, featherweight Dedrick Letsolo and bantamweights Jarius Mabe and Sydney Lekwape.
Sebalo also made a contribution to amateur boxing when he took over as chairman of the Transvaal Amateur Boxing Association from Fred Thabethe.
He trained Arthur “The Fighting Prince” Mayisela in the early part of his career before he won the South African junior welterweight title after leaving Sebalo.
Job trained Jerry Mbitse, who won the South African junior featherweight title in September 1983, and two other quality fighters, Bushy Mosoeu and Daniel Sereme.
Norman Hlabane, who fought as a welterweight and had 21 fights as a professional, met top fighters like Enoch “Schoolboy” Nhlapo (on two occasions), Morgan Moledi, Gordon Goba, and Mckeed Mofokeng.
He was badly injured while doing roadwork and had to retire from boxing in 1982 before he began training fighters at John Middleton’s gym in Johannesburg.
Among the fighters he trained were Ditau Molefyane, Peter Mgojo, Keith Rass, and Bobby Chisale.
His greatest achievement as a trainer was guiding Dingaan Thobela one of the greatest fighters in South Africa in recent years, to winning the South African junior-lightweight and super- middleweight titles, the WBO and WBA lightweight world titles and WBC super-middleweight title.
Theo Mthembu, who fought as a professional lightweight from 1948 to 1951, went in against fighters like Speedy Bandes, Gladstone Mahlo, Morgan Moledi, Gordon Goba, and Mackeed Mofokeng, before his career was cut short after a near fatal bullet wound.
He was also a boxing writer for the Eastern Province edition of the Golden City Post and the Drum, and on returning to Johannesburg in 1962 he remained with the Golden City Post until it ceased publication. Theo also wrote for the Sunday Times and spent 16 years with the Mining Sun.
He trained South African champions Levi Madi and Anthony Morodi but his greatest achievement was with Baby Jake Matlala who would win the South African junior flyweight title and four world titles, WBO flyweight and WBO, IBA and WBU junior flyweight titles.
Two other standout trainers were Richard “Skappie” Samuels, who guided Elijah “Ellis Brown” Mokone, one of the finest and most skilful fighters produced in the country, to the South African featherweight and lightweight titles; and David Motsumi, who handled the career of Sexton “Wonderboy” Mabena, who fought in the 1950s and ‘60s and captured the South African bantamweight and featherweight titles.
Samuels, who was based in Meadowlands, also coached Ernest “Duke” Moledi, a promising welterweight.
Motsumi, from the Vaal Triangle area, worked mostly with fighters from Sharpeville and Evaton and was also instrumental in the success of fighters like German “Mauser” Mhlambi, Elias “Baby Face” Tshabalala and Steve Kgotle.
All of the above mentioned trainers have contributed a lot to South African boxing and produced many champions but have never been given the recognition they deserved.