Life Lessons in the Boxing Ring
George Khosi runs a boxing club in South Africa that aims to help local street kids.
- George Khosi runs a boxing club in South Africa that aims to help local street kids.
- Donated by a local Church, George Khosi's boxing club has become a safe haven for local street children.
- Six photos depict the power of boxing as a guiding force in the lives of South African street children.
Robyn Gwilt is a Johannesburg-based photographer, wife, mother, sister, friend and lover of life.
George Khosi, 43, has been running the Hillbrow Boxing Club since the late 1990s, training street kids in self-esteem as well as fighting and giving them a safe place to hang out.
He also trains women, including Rita Mrwebi, the current South African ladies’ welterweight champion.
Born in Zimbabwe, he came to South Africa aged seven with his foster mother. After a spell in prison as a teenager, he became a professional boxer in the mid-1980s, fighting in bouts across the country.
His life changed in the mid-1990s, when robbers shot him, badly injuring his legs. His recovery took six months. As he was also losing the sight in his right eye, he had to give up boxing.
Shortly afterwards, a local housing association asked him to “keep an eye” on buildings in his precinct in Hillbrow. He asked if in return he could use an abandoned petrol station with a building attached. The answer was yes – and he had the premises for his gym and boxing club.
Hillbrow, an inner city neighborhood of Johannesburg, is a melting pot of immigrants. In the 1970s and 80s, many Greeks, Cypriots, Jews, British and others wishing to escape Europe in search of a new life in South Africa made their way to Hillbrow.
Home to a thriving gay and lesbian community, it was one of Johannesburg’s most cosmopolitan districts. These days, the area is filled with Africans from countries across the continent, many of them in South Africa illegally. Turf-wars are common and most of its former middle-class inhabitants have long since moved out.
The club’s first ring was donated by a church. If they are working, visitors to the gym pay whatever they can afford. If they are unemployed, they are welcome to work out for “mahala” – nothing.
In January 2013, a taxi smashed through a pavement barrier into George’s club, killing a pedestrian and demolishing the ring. Within weeks, supporters raised enough funds to rebuild it.
Text and photographs by Robyn Gwilt
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