Trainers glove up over Eyethu gym

2011-04-09 18:59

Balekile Sam is the invisible power behind the throne of ­Mzimasi Mnguni’s Eyethu ­Gymnasium, which is arguably the most successful boxing ­stable in South Africa.

This is what the 72-year-old trainer told City Press in ­East London last week.

Mnguni has denied the claim, though, accusing this newspaper of “making a story out of ­nothing”.

The trainer’s ­assertion that he also introduced this well-known ­personality to the gymnasium was, however, confirmed by an insider who opted for ­anonymity.

And the legendary Vuyani Bungu has admitted that Sam trained him and other big names at the ­centre, now known as the ­Eyethu Boxing Club.
Notwithstanding this, when pressed for more information Bungu was unenthusiastic.

“I made history locally and would not like to engage in ­disputes, but leave the game in ­dignity,” he said.

Sam emphasised that he did the spadework at the gymnasium which produced some of the cream of the world of boxing, but that he was treated like a non-entity.

“I introduced Mnguni to our boxing club in 1982 and trained the boxers, but the man never ­acknowledged me,” he said.

On why he had asked Mnguni to join them, Sam said they “needed Mnguni’s financial ­muscle for the club”.

Mnguni, who initially asked City Press, “by the way, who is Balekile Sam?” contradicted the trainer, arguing otherwise.

“Sam just accompanied the boys who approached me to help them in the gym,” ­Mnguni said.

“He was indeed an assistant trainer, not a bucket man, so what is the big deal?”

The trainer said Mnguni took over the gymnasium and reduced him to “bucket man”.

Sam said Mnguni never took him along when the boxers were fighting abroad. He had ­relented a few times after he was said to have been ­persuaded by Loyiso Mtya, who also helped groom the fighters.

Mtya, the acting CEO of ­Boxing South Africa, declined to comment.

It seems the fight fraternity has never heard of Sam, and his only claim to fame is that he has ­often been seen on television masterminding the corners of fighters.

Some of the big names trained by Sam include former IBF champions Welcome Ncita (junior featherweight), Mbulelo Botile (bantamweight) and Zolani Petelo (mini flyweight).

Other fighters are ex-national titleholders Mveleli Luzipho (junior flyweight) and Thamsanqa Sogcwe (mini flyweight).

Sam, who is currently training fighters at the Sisonke Boxing Club in Mdantsane, said he was not bitter to Mnguni ­because he was in the game for the love of it.

Asked why he was sticking around at the age of 72, Sam said the young boxers had pleaded with him not to retire.

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