Fighter from the Congo by Ashleigh Egan

When Paul Kamanga walked into Anton Gilmore’s Box Office gym in the south he knew there was something special about the young man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The experienced Gilmore taught Paul the basics that fighters lack to make the leap into the world of professional boxing. ‘Boxing takes discipline’ Anton told Kamanga and also that he had good legs. This made him push himself harder during his amateur career.

As an amateur Paul became the darling of the Southern suburbs boxing scene and was well loved by the crowd. This support continued as Paul got ready to make his pro debut.

For a guy who started boxing in a friend’s garage Kamanga sure has come a long way. After three professional fights he remains undefeated and Rodney Berman described him as ‘a potential superstar’ after the DRC native’s most recent win against the previously unbeaten Zan Jonker.

Paul explains that upon his arrival in South Africa he spoke no English; ‘I picked it up in Primary school’ he said. Paul and his family left the Congo because of the volatile environment it presented to its inhabitants at the time.

He was in a really nervous state on making his pro debut against Sibusiso Masilela on July 9, 2012 at Emperors Palace near Kempton Park and claimed victory by way of a technical knockout at one minute, three seconds into the fourth round. He describes the win as ‘the best moment of his life’.

Gilmore’s corner work has impressed many fans who have observed him calmly advise Paul throughout his boxing career. ‘Anton talks from experience and he’s a valuable guy to have in your corner.’

At the time of his first pro fight Paul was a Matric student at the Hill High School in the south and had to juggle school work and a promising boxing career. ‘I wouldn’t recommend it’ Paul says sternly, ‘I had to study, it was tough but it taught me to use my time wisely.’

While most guys Paul’s age were celebrating the end of exams with parties, he was in the gym training for his next fight in Makapanstad in the North-West.

He dedicated himself to training and gained his second victory on December 8 last year against Justice Ndlovu on a third round stoppage.

On top of his two straight wins on the pro circuit Paul celebrated early in 2013 when he learned he had passed Matric. ‘I was so happy! I was woken up at 8am to hear the news.’

With many boxing fans eagerly awaiting his return to the ring, Paul made his television debut on Golden Gloves’ first event of the year – Danger Zone. He squared up to the also undefeated Zan Jonker who was 8-0 at the time. Someone had to tarnish their perfect record and the fight looked set to be a cracker

The junior welterweight clash proved to be the most entertaining of the night and the fighters traded blows over the full six rounds. Kamanga fought intelligently and displayed a mature strength throughout the fight.

Paul and trainer Anton Gilmore celebrated as it was announced that they had emerged victorious with a unanimous point’s decision. The scores were 59-55 twice and 60-54.

He now concentrates all of his time to boxing but is keen to begin working in April.

‘Boxing is my first love but it’s important to have something to fall back on. Boxing is a short career and I want a good life.’

With all the controversy surrounding banned substance use in boxing, I ask Paul for his take on it. ‘It’s cowardly and unacceptable. I hope we can rid the sport of it’ he answers me seriously.

Paul dreams of travelling overseas and believes Golden Gloves can get him there. ‘To be the best, you have to beat the best’ he tells me and quickly adds that his dream opponent would be Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather.

 

Zan Jonker and Paul Kamanga