Boxing as SA’s Most Iconic Form of Combat

South African boxing has taken many forms over the years. When one hears the phrase boxing, the mainstream sport generally comes to mind. But boxing as an art form and discipline has always extended far beyond the bounds of a professional sport. It is, first and foremost, a form of martial defence and one of the best approaches to maintaining physical fitness.

Such is the case that South Africa, a historically hardy context, has welcomed boxing in all its forms and on all levels, as a fairly iconic martial art, even for those that do not compete on a professional level.

Our history is steeped in violent struggles and stories of overcoming them through past-times like South African Boxing, and these stories hold so much more weight and depth than any South African boxer’s autographs could ever get a glimpse of.


Some of the greatest names in South African society, those that struggled through Apartheid or the abject poverty of post-Apartheid South Africa, made a name for themselves in the ring as an iconic demonstration of their ability to meet social struggles head-on.

It is no secret that national treasure, Nelson Mandela, was a force to be reckoned with in the ring and outside of it.

Eve those South African boxers of yore who were on the wrong side of South Africa’s colonial history had the professional struggle of being barred from international fights (for the most part) in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.


Even with our convoluted history and how it is woven into the sport of boxing, the sport shines through as a headline where our professional athletes have always been concerned. South African boxers are notably formidable, always have been, and it is because of the discipline garnered through our personal and social struggles as South Africans that this is the case.

The very nature of safety in South Africa makes the sport an appealing one, even at an amateur level. Boxing, for many South Africans, is not simply a sport or recreational activity, it is a necessary life skill for being able to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Is it any wonder that our pool of talent in this sport is deeper than most?

It is because of our struggles that South Africa can produce seemingly endless streams of new talent. Boxing has always been an excellent tool for empowerment, and still stands true as a monument to the resilience of South African people.

When the struggles, pain, blood, sweat, and tears wrung out of the ring acts as an escape from our daily hardships as South Africans, it can be easy to see why the sport is taken up with so much virility as it does.

As the body bruises, the soul strengthens. For each blow we take, our resolve to survive and thrive in a harsh South African social climate strengthens.

As we bout in a well-regulated ring with discipline and growing strength, we bring to life our ability to struggle through anything that life can throw at us as South Africans.

This, for me, is where the importance of boxing as an iconic past time in South Africa shines through. It has shown us how easily it can cut through even the most rigid of oppressive structures to build heroes, to show the people of South Africa, whether they look on from the ringside or their television sets, that hard work, dedication, and getting up before the count concludes is the only way to keep surviving and growing as people, a community, a country.

It is the reason why we praise the efforts, and successes of our boxing elite. It is the reason why we share in the disappointment of losses and pull together as a community to support our professionals. We may not be in the ring with them, but as South Africans, we need the constant reminders that a little bit of struggle can go a long way to bringing change, building legends, and being proudly South African.


african boxing ring photo