STEVE Masike, a founder member of the Dube Boys Club in Soweto, says there is no way he would allow the gym the club established in 1957 to be renamed after the late former boxing world champion, Jacob "Baby Jake" Matlala.
"Over my dead body," said a furious Masike on Sunday.
A lawyer by profession, Masike — who is also one of the trainers in the gym — was reacting to Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula’s announcement last Thursday that the famed boxing gym would be named after Matlala.
Matlala, the pint-sided boxer, began and ended his illustrious career at the gym, where his late father trained.
"If the name of this gym is to change, then there is only one person it can be named after, and that is (fellow founding member, former fighter, manager and journalist) Theo Mthembu," Masike said.
"No outsider can just come and do things his or her way in this gym without talking to relevant people."
Masike, who almost exploded on Thursday when Mbalula and American boxing star Floyd Mayweather officially unveiled a plaque honouring Matlala, said that what annoyed him most was that Mbalula did not even bother to consult the club. "If this is about scoring political points, then it shouldn’t be at the expense of the people’s gym.
"Mbalula has insulted us. Who is Matlala — a boy who trained in this gym by default — just because his father trained here. We cannot fold our arms and allow Mbalula to wish away the legacy of this gym.
"What are they saying (about) the legends of this gym: Mthembu, Madi, Dlamini, Morodi, Sthebe and more?"
Masike said the club appreciated Mbalula’s gesture to honour Matlala. "(But) the academy that he (Mbalula) is talking about cannot be started within this gym, I’m sorry.
"We did not start this gym by mistake. We used to play ping-pong (table tennis) here until we started the boxing club.
"If I rubbed people up the wrong way, then tough luck."
Matlala’s wife, Mapula, and his sons, Tshepo and Masego, were present on Thursday. "This gym brings back sad memories," she said on her way out.
The Dube Boys Club has produced many great champions — including Levi "Golden Boy" Madi, Anthony "Blue Jaguar" Morodi, Gabriel "Gash" Dlamini, Ben "TNT" Lekalake, Jacob Jobe, Johannes "Slashing Tiger" Sthebe and Alfred "Kid Bassie" Buqwana.
Sadly, the 70-something Buqwana, a top referee and judge, was manhandled by security personnel when he entered the gym on Thursday. Fortunately, boxer Takalani Ndlovu was close by to intervene when Buqwana was embarrassed in front of the masses who had to come to see Mayweather.
The above-mentioned fighters — some of whom have passed on — were managed by Theo Mthembu. A former professional featherweight fighter, who was known as the "Black Panther", Mthembu, from Alexandra township, was a journalist.
Johnson Vilakazi, Dlamini and Masike were trainers. Masike from Pimville and George Ngwenya from Phomolong are in charge of the gym now.
The last champion to have come from that stable is Khotso Motau — the former Olympian — who won both the South African junior middle and super middleweight belts.
Motau, Takalani Ndlovu, Siyabonga Nyanga and many more were trained by Stanley Ndlovu. When Ndlovu (Takalani) won the WBF and IBF belts, he was no longer at Dube Boys Club. His father (Stanley) had already opened his own gym, leaving behind Ngwenya.