In the ring he stands out like his dyed blond hair; cocky, yet mature beyond his years, with punches like heavy artillery.
Azinga Fuzile is a grade 11 pupil from Duncan Village, a rough shanty town known as the cradle of boxing, near East London in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province. In his corner is his canny trainer, Mzamo ‘Chief’ Njekanye.
“I wouldn’t have done it without Chief, I am very thankful to him. He is able to guide me in everything that is happening,” says Fuzile. His experience contrasts his age; he christened the boxing gloves in 2006 as a 10-year-old and fought 300 times as an amateur.
“I participated in trials and would fight three fights in one day, that’s why I had so many fights,” he says.
“I lost some fights but they were very few.”
In 2014, he captained his country at the Junior Olympics in Scotland, at the age of 17. The same year, he knocked out an opponent in the third round of the final to win gold at the African Youth Championships, in Gaborone, Botswana – the first South African to do so.
His short life is full of milestones; he won his first major professional title in September 2016 beating veteran brawler Macbute Sinyabi with a unanimous decision to be crowned the South African featherweight champion in merely his fifth professional fight. In doing so, he drew comparison with legendary South African Vic Toweel – also an early starter – who went on to become the South African bantamweight champion in his fourth fight and boxed on to a world title championship, at the age of 22, in 1950.
“People who need to speak about the South African championship are people behind us, me and my boy are looking at the international route,” said Njekanye after the surprise win against Sinyabi.
“I see myself as a world champion, that is what I am looking at; I do have the ability to achieve it,” said Fuzile.
Njekanye believes the nickname ‘Golden Boy’ is more of a prophecy.
“I saw that this is something, I saw his direction, was I lying when I said this boy is a golden boy? The whole country can see that Chief was right, a lot of people just knew about him, I have been building him for years,” says Njekanye.
His ambition of winning a world title came sooner than expected.
Fight fans scratched their heads when it was announced that little known Georgian, Giorgi Gochisvili, was to face Fuzile for the WBC youth featherweight title in Mdantsane, in the Eastern Cape.
“We were preparing for someone we didn’t know, we even failed looking for information on him because we got the wrong name. The day before the fight we got the correct information and watched his videos on YouTube,” says Njekanye.
Fuzile won his first world title, three months after his triumph against Sinyabi, beating Gochisvili to a pulp in the first round. Doctors rushed Gochisvili to hospital to repair the damage of a left to the liver.
“I didn’t care who I was fighting, it did not matter. All I knew is that I was going to beat this guy, I didn’t even know his style,” says Fuzile.
A lot of the preparation for the fight was spent in class. Fuzile is studying grade 11 at Kusile Comprehensive High School in Duncan Village.
“We were working under difficult conditions; we had a challenge of the gym and examination papers in between the dates, we had to understand each other. For me, your education and career are parallel, you can’t undermine the boy’s career,” says Njekanye.
“I was able to manage, when you don’t have any things distracting you in life then it is easy to manage everything,” says Fuzile.
With the exploits of the Golden Boy comes the pain of loss for trainer Njekanye. In 2016, Njekanye’s product Xolisani ‘Nomeva’ Ndongeni, a successful South African world champion boxer, left his gym to join Colin Nathan in Johannesburg, under prominent Rodney Berman’s Golden Gloves Promotions. A troubled Njekanye sees this as poaching.
“These boys are being fooled by these guys from Johannesburg. It is all because of greed, most of the boxers have gone to Gauteng and most of them have returned with bare hands,” he says.
“You can make a life out of boxing, they always believe by going to people like Colin Nathan he will give them money, they don’t know those people see a business when they see them. Even my boy Azinga, they want him, that’s what you can say about these boxers, they have gone and come back with nothing.”
“You need to remember people like Nomeva Ndongeni came from my hands; I took him from the streets, before Fuzile everyone was talking about Nomeva,” says Njekanye.
The trainer takes responsibility for all his precious prodigies.
“These boys come from an unfortunate background. Without me, Duncan wouldn’t be producing these boys, tell me who else is doing what I am doing to these lads. This is the second world champion to come out of these hands. I have done this thing voluntarily; there was never any contribution,” he says.
The Golden Boy’s impressive career is set to continue in February. Njekanye confirms that a fight, that could be international, is on the cards.
As for Fuzile, he is training and waiting for his examination results so he can qualify for his final year at school. He hopes to pass with flying colors in both ring and classroom this year.
Download issues of Forbes Africa
- Single Digital Issue: Nigeria 60 - Forbes Africa Oct/Nov 2020 R50.00
- Single Digital Issue: James Mwangi Cover - Forbes Africa Aug/Sep2020 R50.00
- Single Digital Issue: Forbes Africa June/July 2020 R50.00
- Single Digital Issue: Forbes Africa April 2020 - 30 Under 30 R50.00
- Single Digital Issue: Forbes Africa March 2020 R50.00