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Reuben Rasodi - by Pete Moscardi

Look at the history books and you will find that every good general has his lieutenant at his side to provide invaluable assistance when needed. And so it is with the king-pin of Golden Gloves Promotions, Rodney Berman, who has his matchmaker, Reuben Rasodi as his right hand man. Rodney’s association with the 72-year-old Reuben goes back some 32 years when the company worked under the Square Ring Golden Gloves banner.

Rasodi is a taciturn character to put it mildly and to try to get him to open up and talk about himself is akin to pulling teeth. However, meeting up with him at Berman’s Rosebank offices and being plied by the excellent coffee which is produced in this location gave me the inspiration to relentlessly pursue a 3rd degree verbal tactic which, ultimately, resulted in some information coming back.

Reuben Rasodi was born in Pietersburg – today named Polokwane – and took up boxing when he was a pupil at the Thabakgong in Mamabolo village. “I did this as a means to learn how to defend myself and not because I had any ambitions to pursue a career in boxing,” he explains. On one school holiday he landed up staying with relatives in Alexandra Township where, one day, he saw a boxer running through the streets and shadow boxing. This sight fascinated Reuben and he asked some people who the boxer was. “I was told he was a top professional called Kangaroo Maoto. |I approached him and he took me to his gym where I watched him train. Watching Kangaroo was a great experience as it showed me how things should be done properly and also showed up the big difference between amateur and professional methods. To start with, the boxers in the gym bandaged their hands before punching the bag,” he says.

On leaving school Reuben and his family eventually landed up in Soweto. “I opened a gym in the yard of my father’s house and managed to acquire some gloves. But I needed proper facilities for the amateur boxers I was training and an ex professional called Reuben Zondi, who owned a gym called Panama Flash in Orlando West, allowed my boxers to train at his premises. This was back in 1969, and Zondi asked me to take over and run the gym. I turned my team of amateur boxers into professionals and found them fights as well as training them. I then became involved in the promotional side of the sport, entering a partnership with a Welkom promoter, and put on small shows in Welkom, Bloemfontein, Barberton and Sasolburg and several other centres around the country. The first fight I made as a matchmaker was Richard Borias, who was my fighter, against Pangaman Sekgapane in Barberton. Borias came out a winner on points,” he recalls.

Reuben was still training his professional boxers when he joined forces with Rodney Berman as his matchmaker 32 years ago. “In 1983 I matched my fighter, Eric Rankeng with the up-andcoming Brett Taylor. It was their first professional fight and Brett got the win on points,” he recalls. But realising that being both a matchmaker and a trainer/manager presented a conflict of interest; Rasodi disbanded his club and went into matchmaking full time with his Golden Gloves boss.

“Reuben has been an invaluable asset to Golden Gloves and has literally been my right hand man. He has a way of knowing what fighters would make the best fights and I have never had cause to question any of the matches he has made,” Rodney says.

Asked to recall some of the best fights he has made, Reuben points to the fight between the late Arthur Mayisela and Duke Moledi which took place on a Golden Gloves bill in Sebokeng. “It was a terrific fight which Arthur won on points. Another great fight for which I made the match was the fight between Brett Taylor and Duke Moledi which Duke edged, and also the fight between Sydney Hoho and Gordon Goba which Hoho won on points.

Reuben’s brief from Golden Gloves is to match the undercard fighters contracted to Golden Gloves with suitable opponents. “In order to be able to do this I go to all the tournaments in order to have a feel of just what’s out there. You can’t have push-overs fighting the ‘house fighters’ all the time as the prospects who fight on exclusive contracts to Rodney need to be built up and tested with meaningful fights,” he explains.

Reuben believes that the fighters coming out of the amateur ranks today are not as good as the crop of, say, 10-15 years ago. He does, however, single out a couple of names which he thinks could be the stars of the future. “I like the look of Jason Bedeman and Flo Simba. I think these youngsters have shown that they have what it takes,” he says.

If anyone out there thinks that Reuben’s job is easy and cushy then he will soon take the trouble to correct this perception. “Very often it is not easy. You get some managers and trainers who are a pleasure to deal with, while there are others who just make life difficult and with whom I just don’t want to waste my time. But having said this, there is nothing else I would rather do, and I think after doing this job for over 30 years I should know what I am about at this stage of the game,” he concludes.