By Mesuli Zifo
Jackie Gunguluza may hold the ignominy of being one the best boxers produced in the land never to win a world title.
But the man who they called “Pressure Cooker” etched his name in the history books by becoming the only boxer to win the SA featherweight title three times.
The achievement pushed his name to be mentioned among the boxing greats in the region.
When the history of this region which includes such big names as Vuyani Bungu, Welcome Ncita, Mbulelo Botile, Nkosana “Happyboy” Mgxaji, Welile Nkosinkulu, Mzukisi Sikweyiya to mention but a few is written, Gunguluza will likely be included.
And the talented former boxer knows just how important it is to come through societal obstacles having surmounted them during the country’s difficult era of the apartheid regime.
“It was hard during our era because firstly chances were not as plenty as they are right now,” he says. “We have to fight for everything to succeed and in a way I think that shaped us to be what we are today.
“For instance, when I look at boxers of today very few are dedicated to their craft. Yes talent is there but the boxers rely on it without putting in extra work to supplement it.”
One can argue that had Gunguluza competed in the present era he would have won one of the world titles currently saturating the boxing scene.
With the exception of the ‘Big Four’; i.e WBA, WBO, WBC and IBF, these days there are titles such as the IBO and the WBF to mention just a few.
While the last two are considered marginal in standard, they serve their purpose by being a launch pad for many a fighter who want to progress towards the ‘Big Four’.
For instance, Simpiwe Nongqayi launched his unlikely IBF title conquest by first winning the WBF crown.
But it is the IBO which has been the vehicle for the majority of local boxers in their ‘Big Four’ aspirations.
“I would have surely won the likes of IBO by today’s standards,” Gunguluza says.
But he is not crying over spilt milk and wallowing in self-pity over lost opportunities.
Instead the veteran, now 54 years old, has embarked on a drive to develop boxing from the grassroots level by organising amateur tournaments, persuading local businesses to come on board.
He has roped in other retired boxers to form Eastern Cape Boxing Legends Club to unearth talent.
Among the retired boxers are former world champion Mpush Makambi, Botile, Gabula Vabaza to mention but a few. “I can sit here and pity myself for never winning a world title or get up and make sure that through my efforts kids will go through the same suffering.”
Having organised tournaments in front of various business buildings in King William’s Town and East London, Gunguluza will be back tomorrow when he stages a 30-bout amateur tournament in front of Profile Brick & Tile shop in Summerpride.
The bouts will be dominated by female boxers to celebrate Women’s Month.
“These kids are not known for now but in 10 years to come their names will be dominating the boxing scene. “No one knew that when Zolani Tete used to fight in Daily Dispatch organised amateur tournaments one day he would be major world champion. So look out for these kids while they are still young,” he said.
The tournament will start at 10am and admission is free.