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Still more to come from SA’s trainer of the year

  • Sport15June
Colin Nathan has devoted almost all his life to boxing. “I got my first set of boxing gloves when I was three,” he says. Now, his hard work has started to pay off.
by JACK MILNER | Jun 14, 2018

He was named Trainer of The Year for 2017 by Boxing South Africa. He has also been nominated to sit on the World Boxing Council Training Committee, the only person in Africa to do so.

This year could be even better.

In May, Nathan travelled to Japan with Hekkie Budler on what most pundits considered to be a mission impossible, to wrestle the World Boxing Association‚ International Boxing Federation (IBF) and Ring Magazine junior-flyweight titles away from Japanese boxer Ryoichi Taguchi. “Taguchi had been unbeaten in five years,” said Nathan, “and he had unified those three titles.

“We arrived as the challenger, and we knew if Hekkie won, he would be the undisputed world champion in that division. He is the first South African to become a linear (undisputed) champion.”

The fight, on 20 May, turned into an absolute bruiser and in the end, all three judges – one each from Japan, the US and South Africa – gave the decision to the South African 114-113.

There was an in-joke among the guys as Budler left South Africa as a 29-year-old and returned as a 30-year-old – older and wiser – as he celebrated his birthday in Japan.

But, there were no celebratory meals. In fact, he almost had to starve himself to get his weight down to the 48.99kg limit.

For many boxing pundits, Budler’s victory surpasses those of greats like Brian Mitchell‚ Dingaan Thobela‚ Sugarboy Malinga, and even Corrie Sanders, because no other South African boxer has held two major titles simultaneously.

Despite the fight taking place in Japan, Nathan said the crowd was extremely fair. “There was no booing, and most people clapped when the result was announced.”

Regarding Budler’s future, Nathan says they are exploring their options. “We will probably have to go back to Japan as they have another fighter who might challenge,” he says.

Next month, Nathan will go through it all again as he will travel to Malaysia with Moruti Mthalane, who will meet Muhammad Waseem. The 15 July bout, for the vacant IBF flyweight title, is on the undercard of the show headlined by Manny Pacquiao against Lucas Matthysse in Kuala Lumpur.

Mthalane, who has a record of 35 wins, 24 by knockout, with two losses, was working out in Nathan’s Hot Box Gym in Glenhazel while Nathan spoke to the SA Jewish Report. Mthalane was in top condition despite being 36 years old, which is really old for a fighter. “He doesn’t look 36 years old, and he certainly doesn’t fight like a 36-year-old,” said Nathan. “He hasn’t lost a fight for 10 years.

“He was IBF and IBO world champion in his division, but he had to vacate the titles because of politics.”

It is no accident that Nathan became passionately involved in boxing. After all, he is the third generation of his family involved in the sport. “My grandfather started it all. He owned a gym in central Johannesburg. When we lived in Cape Town, I used to see my father coming back from boxing tournaments at the Good Hope Centre. He was also corner man.

“That’s when I started to nag him to go with him. He kept telling me I was too young, but after continual nagging, he finally conceded when I was seven years old.

“I bought my first boxing magazine when I was nine years old. It was in 1987.”

By the age of 12, Nathan was already a legally licensed corner man. “I was the youngest person ever to hold that licence. Of course, that was before the days they introduced a minimum age of 18. I was granted the licence by the late Marcus Temple, who was head of the Western Cape Board of Control.”

Although he was a national judo champion, Nathan has never fought competitively in a boxing ring. He admits, however, it is something he would have loved to have done.

Two days after his 20th birthday, Nathan packed a tog bag and came up to Johannesburg. He got a job as a continuity announcer on SABC1 and became a boxing commentator.

Two years after arriving in Johannesburg, he opened the Hot Box Gym. “After five years, I moved to where I am now, but it has always been in Glenhazel.”

Looking at other prospects, Nathan says he has a very talented woman boxer working out of his gym. “She is a former amateur champion, and will be my first female champion. Women’s boxing has been going through a stagnant phase, but it’s picking up and is doing well in Europe.”

When Laila Ali, the daughter of boxing legend Muhammed Ali, came to fight in South Africa, she trained in his gym, so he has witnessed the level required to generate a woman champion.

Nathan is also bullish about the growth of professional boxers from other countries in Africa. “We have great talent in Africa, but it has been neglected for years. However, television networks are starting to push the sport, and I’m confident that with the extra promotion, we will see some champions coming out of Africa.”

While there are a number of Jews involved in boxing promotion, there are no other Jewish trainers of Nathan’s level in South Africa. “I’m unaware of any leading Jewish trainers anywhere else in the world either,” said Nathan, making him unique in the sport.

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