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Boxing prodigy puts on gloves with legendary trainer

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Eighteen-year-old full-time boxer Joshua Feldman has proven to award-winning boxing trainer Colin Nathan that Jews aren’t “too soft” to succeed in boxing.

“This is a rarity in South African boxing history,” says Nathan, who is managing and training Feldman. “The last top South African fighter who was Orthodox Jewish was Morris Weinstein [in the early 2000s].”

Nathan, who led Hekkie Budler and Sivenathi Nontshinga to improbable victories with his masterful corner work this year, says, “Training Joshua is special. I’ve always wanted to have a Jewish boxer. A Jewish manager/trainer and a fighter – it doesn’t get better than this.”

After matriculating from Herzlia in 2021, Feldman moved to Johannesburg to train at Nathan’s Hot Box Gym in Savoy Estate.

Nathan first found out about Feldman last year. “My son told me, ‘Dad, there’s a Jewish kid in my school who is two years older than me. He is a very good boxer,’” Nathan recalls. “My son sent me some fight footage, and I thought Joshua was pretty talented, but I didn’t give it much thought. The next thing he was at the South African Championships. I saw pictures on Facebook of him, and I wondered if this was the kid my son was talking about. I got a message from my son saying, ‘The guy I was telling you about is fighting in the championships.’”

Feldman ended up winning the silver medal at the championships.

“To get to the SA Championships, I started with three white-collar boxing fights, which are basically fights hosted by a boxing gym with no winner or loser,” he says. “I gained some experience in those three. Then I had about six or seven amateur fights, and won all of them. I had to go into dodgy areas in Cape Town, but I won all of them pretty easily.”

He subsequently won gold at the Western Cape Championships (with two wins in as many fights) in May 2021. “After that, I didn’t fight until the SA Championships in October last year. I just trained in that time.”

At the SA Championships, he convincingly won his semi-final against an Eastern Cape fighter. The final was the next day, “so I was very tired for that fight. I came up short, and lost by a split decision. I think I won it. That fighter was from Johannesburg. He was a year older than me.”

Feldman ranks the silver medal as his biggest boxing achievement because he “fought people from other provinces with different styles. I didn’t know the competition I was coming up against. It was my first major tournament, and the people in that tournament had far more experience than me. They all had more than 40 fights.”

Feldman then got in touch with Nathan on Instagram.

“A week later, I got a call from Joshua’s dad saying, ‘My son has a massive dream and passion to turn professional in boxing, and you’re the guy recommended,’” Nathan says.

Feldman got a warm reception from the other boxers at Hot Box Gym. “He’s the baby of the team,” Nathan says. “A lot of our boxers have pulled me aside saying they like the look of him because of his work ethic and discipline. Josh comes in, greets people, and just gets to work. He wants to make this a career, and I think he is going to be very successful at it.”

Feldman, who dreams about becoming a world champion, says determination, self-belief, and consistency are the most important traits needed to succeed in boxing.

Feldman’s grandfather was a sports promoter who mainly promoted golf, even managing Ernie Els, but he brought the big bout between American Davey Moore and South African Charlie Weir to South Africa in the early 1980s.

Feldman started boxing at the age of 12. “I was playing soccer and I had a problem with my knee. My dad told me I should go to boxing because I wouldn’t have to run to train. I didn’t take much notice of boxing for about two years, but since the age of 14, I’ve been really passionate about it.”

Feldman says he’s a proud Jew and boxer who has only had about 10 amateur fights, but is planning to get his professional boxing license next year.

He trains under Nathan six days a week at Hot Box Gym. “Colin has corrected small details and little mistakes like technique. He’s helping me with those types of things.”

Nathan likes what he sees in Feldman, saying, “It’s crazy to think he’s only 18. There are some ‘X’ factors to this kid beside the fact that he’s Jewish. He has very good technique and an extremely strong work ethic. He has a lot of natural flow and ability. He sets his feet well, has good balance, a very good base and foundation, and good timing.”

Nathan believes Feldman has the potential to go far in boxing, but says, “How far he goes will be up to him. We’ll just guide him correctly. I can’t make predictions on fighters’ careers, but I can predict that he has a really good future.”

Feldman watches modern-day fights, with unified welterweight world champion Errol Spence Jr being a favourite of his, but loves studying old-school fighters like James Toney, Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, and Joe Frazier. “I feel the skill level and work rate was a bit better back then,” he says.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Owen Messinger

    Oct 25, 2023 at 6:01 pm

    You are on the right course.Julian Jackson on St Thomas in the USVI has a GYM WITH lots of young fighters. He has second generation men who he fought the dads. I’ve known and worked with the HAWK for close to 50 years and highly reccomend you making a visit contact him as he is around to help. THE SPORT

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