Mathews Phosa. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Mathews Phosa. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

FORMER heavyweight politician Mathews Phosa said on Wednesday he had not ventured into boxing to make a fast buck.

The former premier of Mpumalanga says he accepted his appointment as honorary president of the World Boxing Foundation (WBF) to try to make the sport a platform to help the poor in South Africa make a difference in their lives.

The 61-year-old attorney from Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, was reacting to his appointment by Cape Town-based WBF president Howard Goldberg last week.

"I did not extend my hand to boxing for a cent … no. But I want to give poor boxing people pride and make them somebodies; make them heroes and heroines; make them live a quality of life and be permanent role models," he said.

"I am made to believe that I’m a successful businessman, so I am here to contribute to the community of people where I live."

Phosa was touched by the saga of boxers who have died as paupers. Recently one of the country’s most popular boxers, pint-sized Jacob "Baby Jake" Matlala, died at a public hospital in Johannesburg. He could not afford a private hospital, yet he had held four world titles in two weight divisions.

"I want to try my best to convince the business sector to invest in the sport of boxing. Look, I have been able to do that in various social charities in and outside South Africa.

"We learned from the great Nelson Mandela, who taught us that sport has an unbelievable healing effect," he said.

Phosa said he was surprised when Goldberg approached him about becoming part of the WBF.

"I accepted it with humility. You may not be aware that boxing is my territory. I boxed a lot until I was in matric. My dad stopped me, fearing that I would be brain-damaged before I even became a lawyer."

Phosa made it clear that getting involved in the sport was jumping onto an already moving train.

"I’m quite aware that local boxing is facing many challenges. We have already engaged with SABC and SuperSport. They know what we intend doing. We cannot do without them, including radio stations.

"I would like to see Africa, my home, prosper in terms of hosting big boxing events and ultimately producing world champions."

Regarding his involvement with Real Steel Promotions of Pieter de Wet and Andre Thysse, Phosa said: "You’ve got to belong in a corner in boxing. This is my stable. I will support them all the way."

De Wet said: "We, at Real Steel Promotions, are gratified to have the heavyweight in our corner.

"But remember he is here for boxing in general. He does not want to take over boxing but to give the sport assistance it dearly needs. Like he said, he will be guided by Boxing South Africa. He could have chosen any other sporting code but he chose boxing because this sport is his life."