From children’s home to champ

2011-06-09 00:00

WHEN Wentzel Nel went home for a visit after winning the Extreme Fighting Championship lightweight title belt in 2010, the children of Malvern Children’s Home in Queensburgh, Durban, saluted their hero with pride.

Despite having lost his belt EFC earlier this year, Nel (35), the former 2010 champ, has lost none of the respect at the Children’s Home, where he learnt the leadership qualities and respect that would take him to the crest of his fighting career — and make him a man among men.

“It all started here,” Nel said.

“Uncle Pierre (the headmaster) and the house mums and dads were so kind to us, we never felt like outsiders,” he said, sitting among a group of seven boys having their supper.

They all ate together, learnt together and played together — and they all spoke the same language of determination.

“Some of the children here come from dark and twisted backgrounds — abuse of every kind and the worst kind, molestation — and they need to be handled with care,” said Nel.

The house accommodates around 120 children and depends on the Dutch Reformed Church and the sheer goodwill of volunteers for funding and assistance.

Nel, who wrestled while young, recalled how he would round the boys up for a friendly game of rugby and it was not long before it became clear that sport would be the only escape for many of these children.

“I qualified as a diesel mechanic after several years of tried and failed attempts at an apprenticeship,” said Nel.

“I am working for SA Bulk Terminals. I have a beautiful two-and-a-half- year-old son, Troyden, and an amazing wife, Jackie.

“I have a complete and awesome life and I have this warm place to thank for it,” he said.

Nel was three years old when he and his siblings were taken out of the care of their parents and put into a foster home in Winburg, Orange Free State. When he was nine years old they were brought closer to their parents, who lived in Eshowe, and settled in at the Malvern Children’s Home.

Nel acknowledged his house-uncle at that time, Dawie le Roux, who he said was among the most inspirational people in his life.

“Uncle Dawie was one of those selfless people and committed his life to the wellbeing of the children. Last I heard he became a missionary and travels Africa.”

Director Pierre Marais commended one of the home’s most prized products, Nel, for his accomplishments.

“We all have choices and Nel has made the decision to make his life a success. This is what it’s all about,” said Marais.

Nel agreed with his former headmaster: “I decided to move forward with my life, like a bull and stubborn as hell — that’s what you need to do,” he said.

Nel thanked his sponsors, Mongrel Fight Club, Eight Limbs Clothing, Muscle Works Supplements, Speedz Water and Finstate Financial Solutions.


FOURTEEN fights and a host of top fighters have been confirmed for the Extreme Fighting Championship Africa 09, where a number of local MMA legends and some promising newcomers will give their all in the EFC Africa hexagon at the Coca-Cola Dome on June 30.

Wrestler Wentzel Nel takes on judo and kickboxer champ Manny Da Silva in what will be a dynamic mix of styles. The fights will be screened live at select Nu Metro cinemas. Tickets are on sale now at as well as Computicket for the live event. Full fight card and more information available at

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