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Jarred Silverman: fighting fit after falling hard

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He took up boxing from a young age, became number one in the country, almost died in a shooting, was sent to prison and, as a father and husband, he’s now trying to get himself back on track.

Though Jarred Silverman hasn’t followed a conventional path, this Jewish boxer and businessman has a fascinating story to tell about bobbing and weaving through the challenges of life.

“I have a small, loving family and I grew up in the south of Johannesburg. My mother is Jewish, and most Friday nights, I’m at a Shabbat,” says Silverman. “My grandfather introduced me to boxing at the age of seven, and I fell in love with the sport. I was rated number one in the country before I was shot, and signed a contract to fight for the South African title.”

All that came crashing down when Silverman was shot five times in an incident that also landed him in prison. “I had a 1% chance of living and was in and out of hospital for two years. Without Hashem, I would never have made it,” he says. He was then sentenced to five years for attempted murder.

According to local media reports, a friend of Silverman’s sneaked a firearm into a music festival in 2014. An altercation arose between Silverman and a member of a family with whom Silverman had a feud. The gun was drawn, chaos ensued, and three people were shot.

An off-duty police reservist in the crowd saw what was happening, and shot Silverman several times. Silverman spent the next 18 months in hospital. In spite of the severity of his wounds, he made a full recovery and continued his career as a professional boxer, even during his trial.

All Silverman will say about the incident was that it was in “self-defence”. He was found guilty in 2018. “In that moment, my entire world collapsed as I had recently got married and had a three-month-old son.”

He served two and a half years of his sentence at Krugersdorp and Leeuwkop prisons, and is now serving the second half of his sentence on parole. He seeks forgiveness from those he wronged, and says “revenge isn’t the answer”.

Being away from his wife and son was the most difficult part of being in prison. “It was pure hell on earth – the worst pain I’ve ever felt.” Conditions in prison were “horrific and disgusting. There were rats and cockroaches – 80 inmates in one cell with one toilet, one basin, one shower and all the showers didn’t work. I washed out of a bucket for two and a half years.”

However, he tried to make his time count, and to have a positive impact on those around him. “I started a boxing academy, training inmates. I educated them on the art of boxing, instilling discipline and a healthy lifestyle.”

What got him through the toughest moments was “focusing on my release, getting home to my wife and son, and becoming a champion”. He also looked to his Jewish faith as a form of strength. Reuniting with his son “was the best day of my life”.

Now, his goals are simple: “To become the best father, husband, champion, businessman, and person I can possibly be.” He also hopes to be “an inspiration to those who are going through a hard time in life. I want to change as many lives as I can.” He would even be open to doing talks at schools.

Before his life changed, his boxing nickname was “Mr Hollywood”. Asked where this came from, he says, “The late South African boxing trainer, Nick Durandt, gave me the nickname. He said all the stars come from Hollywood, and one day I’ll be a star.” Now, he hopes to fulfil that dream.

He has his boxing licence back, and has chosen to train at Colin Nathan’s Hot Box Gym. He describes Nathan as “an absolute mensch.”

On 15 May, Nathan shared a photo on Instagram of him, Silverman, and Silverman’s son all wearing boxing gloves, as he officially welcomed Silverman to the gym. “Often in life we fall. Our choices are like the fight game: we can stay down, or we can choose to rise,” he wrote.

“I believe everyone deserves a second chance in life,” Nathan says. “I’ve known Jarred since he was 14, and he loves boxing. He’s an all-action fighter and crowd pleaser. I’ve always had a soft spot for him. I’m thrilled that he chose me to train and manage him. I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”

“I thank the Jewish community for supporting me through the hardest time of my life,” says Silverman. “All I can say is that it makes me proud to be Jewish.”

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