Flo "The Demolition Man" Simba by Pete Moscardi

One picks up the marked contrast between Flo Simba, the quietly-spoken 21-
year-old civil engineering student, and Flo “The Demolition Man” Simba who has impressively destroyed all opposition put in front of him since his professional
debut in October last year. The macho and muscular Simba, who stalks the ring with the grace and agility of a leopard stalking its prey, is a far cry from the shy
and self-effacing image he presents out of the ring. To say that the DRC-born
Simba is quietly-spoken is an exaggeration – he almost speaks in a whisper that
resulted in me having to lean close to him when doing this interview.

Flo came to South Africa from the DRC when he was just 18 months old – and
he has never ventured outside this country up to now and he displays a degree of naivety which underlines his age. But this, according to Brian Mitchell, his
manager, is about to change. “Flo has more than fulfilled his early promise and
has surpassed all our expectations. In fact, he has progressed so rapidly that
our plan is to take him over to the US in the early part of next year and to give
him exposure to the American fight scene,” Mitchell says.

Flo’s father was a practising medical doctor who is now in the process of
starting his own company, and his family consists of a 16-year-old brother, a
sister aged 15 and two younger brothers aged four and six who all live with
their parents. His 19-year-old brother tragically died of heart complications this
year.

Simba rents a townhouse in Meyersdal in the south of Johannesburg where he lives alone and his home is conveniently situated to the two gyms he frequents. Although he has lived in South Africa since an early age, he is still to acquire South African citizenship – but an application has now been made to the appropriate authority

Simba got into boxing through the urgings of his late brother, who suggested that he join a local amateur club. Flo took himself off to Aubrey Lovett’s Southside gym in Regents Park from where he notched up seven amateur fights – winning all, six inside the distance. “When I turned pro I don’t think dad and mum were too keen on the idea and I think they still disapprove. But they still come to my fights to support me,” he says.

After matriculating from Southhills High, Flo decided on a career in civil engineering and enrolled at the University of Johannesburg where he is now in the second year of his studies and doing his practical internship. He admits that dividing his time between his studies and boxing presents a difficult balancing act, and his frenetic daily schedule would make most shudder.

Describing an average day in the life of Flo Simba when in training for a fight, he says: “I’m on the road running at 5am and I average between 10-12kms.

I then come home and make my own breakfast of eggs and toast before setting off for UJ. My studies take me from 8am to 2.30pm, and thereafter I drive over to my trainer, Harold Volbrecht’s gym in Rosettenville. I work out at the gym from 3pm to 4.30pm where I spar between six and 10 rounds and do pad and bag work. As soon as I’ve finished there I go off to the Body Guru Gym in Meyersdal where I work-out for 1.5 hours under the strict eye of my personal trainer. It’s then back to my house where I have a few hours to relax before bed.”

Simba believes that he has made considerable advancements in his boxing career since his first professional fight in October 2009 – a first-round TKO win over Bernard Vance at the Emperor’s Palace Casino. His eight fights to date are proof of this, with only Elvis Moyo managing to last the scheduled six rounds. He was given a considerable step-up in his last fight on November 6 when his promoter, Rodney Berman brought in his first international opponent, the experienced Argentine, Mauro Adrian Ordiales, who was a veteran by comparison with a 23-7 record. After surviving a torrid passage in the second round, in which he admits Ordiales shook him with a good punch, Simba KO’d his opponent in round five with what can only be described as one of the most brutal right hooks ever seen in the Emperor’s Palace ring. This victory put the seal on Berman and Mitchell’s decision to steer his career on a course bound for the US.

Flo is quick to stress the very significant contribution made by Brian Mitchell (his manager), Harold Volbrecht (his trainer) and Rodney Berman (his promoter). “Harold is a fantastic trainer and conditioner and under his tutelage my skill, power and movement have improved tremendously. He is a great ring strategist with whom I enjoy a close relationship – with him being my mentor and Svengali,” he says.

Brian Mitchell is quick to share Simba’s enthusiasm over his progress. “He has come on much further than we could’ve expected and he should be up fighting in the top 10 when he has had around another 20 fights. Flo is still a ‘work in progress’, and we are planning to bring him along slowly. There are faults to correct – he needs to bring his hands up and to work on his defence – and the rest will come with experience. His trip to the US is planned for 2011, and we will be assisted there by Art Pelulo, Rodney Berman’s American business associate. Flo is 6’2” and will probably bulk up to 100kgs in a year’s time, so we plan to keep him at heavyweight. By the time he has had approximately 28 fights, the giant heavyweights of today – i.e. the Klitschko’s – will be off the scene,” Mitchell says.

While Simba is currently on the cusp of an exciting future in the ring, he has not lost touch with reality. “I’m able to divide myself between my civil engineering studies and my boxing right now – even though this can be tricky at times. However, my ultimate career path will be directed towards civil engineering and I would eventually like to have my own company when my boxing days are over,” he says.

A major factor in Flo’s life is the input and assistance afforded him by his generous sponsors, the Bedfordview-based Deton Financial Services. “The owner of the business, Richard Olfsen has been extremely generous in his sponsorship, both in my personal capacity and also as a keen supporter of my fights. He is always at ringside when I fight”, he says.

Flo hints at a romance in his life: “I have a girlfriend called Vanessa who is in her first year civil engineering studies at UJ and also teaches maths and science to matric learners. However, my very busy schedule does not leave me too much time for relationships.”

Simba is about to be gifted with a brand-new car from his philanthropic sponsors, but in the meantime drives Brian Mitchell’s Jeep Cherokee. “My manager, as it turns out, is also a major sponsor,” he says with a wry sense of humour.

Flo is a man of simple tastes and says his favourite food is ribs and chips. Although he portrays an impression of someone who is still to go through the hard school of life, Flo Simba is a young man with both feet firmly planted on the ground. And having spent a couple of fascinating hours conversing with him, I came away with the distinct impression that he would never allow himself to get his head in the clouds. The door to Flo’s future is now wide open, and he has every intention of going through it.