We all know South Africa’s first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela. Not too many know that he was actually quite the boxer back in his day. He used to train out of the Donaldson Orlando Community Centre or the “D.O.” or Soweto YMCA as it is called today. As it is Madiba’s 95th birthday, I thought it would be an appropriate time to bring this information to light.
Madiba is known for being a highly intelligent man, but what might be less known is his dedication to a healthy body through training. Throughout his 27 years imprisonment on Robben Island, he still managed to maintain a strong and healthy physique. Madiba was believe it or not a heavyweight, not something I would have guessed by looking at his current frame. To best understand his love for boxing, in contrast to his peaceful mentality here is a quote from his book: Long Walk to Freedom
“I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it. I was intrigued by how one moved one’s body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced onself over a match.
Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, color, and wealth are irrelevant . . . I never did any real fighting after I entered politics. My main interest was in training; I found the rigorous exercise to be an excellent outlet for tension and stress. After a strenuous workout, I felt both mentally and physically lighter. It was a way of losing myself in something that was not the struggle. After an evening’s workout I would wake up the next morning feeling strong and refreshed, ready to take up the fight again.” (Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, page 193.)