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Jodi’s Love Affair with Boxing - by Pete Moscardi

South African boxing has an aspirant Jackie Kallen within its ranks in the personage of Jodi Solomon, an attractive 36-year-old divorced mother of two who juggles her time between her day job as a reflexologist and sports massage therapist, her children, and last but by no means least, Isaac Chilemba, a light-heavyweight who stands on the cusp of world recognition.

Jodi’s career choice after matriculating from Damelin was dancing and when she was 16 she enrolled at a dance company called “Moving into Dance” located in Braamfontein where she trained for three years. The travel bug hit her when she was 19 and she took off for New York where she did various part-time jobs. She then spent six months in Italy before going back to New York where again she did a variety of parttime jobs which included soldering surf boards. “I eventually returned to Joburg just before my 21st birthday and studied anatomy and physiology with a view to going into the reflexology and sports massage field Connected to the rehabilitation of injured sportsmen and women,” she says.

Jodi’s love affair with boxing started 10 years ago when she walked into Colin
Nathan’s HotBox gym in the Johannesburg suburb of Glenhazel and launched herself into boxing training. “I was immediately drawn to the discipline and motivation of the boxers training there and I loved everything about the boxing gym - the atmosphere, the vibe and the boxers. I wanted to box within the gym, but I had no ambition to do this on a competitive basis. I really identified with the boxers and I was fascinated by their level of commitment,” she recalls.

After spending some considerable time at the HotBox gym Jodi changed direction and enrolled at Nick Durandt’s gym in nearby Norwood. Here she soon made friends with the trainers and boxers – one of whom was Isaac Chilemba, a shy and quietly spoken Malawian. “I liked Isaac but I was not as friendly with him as I was with the other boxers in the gym. About three years ago Anton Gilmore put on a pad punching competition at his gym in the South. I entered and Isaac held the pads for me. From that moment we got to know each other better. I gathered that Isaac was not altogether happy where he was and he asked me to look at some
contracts he had been given by Rodney Berman. I gave him some assistance and, to my great surprise, he asked me to manage him. The prospect was exciting and I submitted my application for a manager’s licence to BSA and took over as Isaac’s mentor,” she explains.

The change of circumstances initiated a change of gym and trainer for Isaac, Jodi
found herself with Isaac back at Nathan’s HotBox gym, with Colin now in charge of
Isaac’s training. Jodi threw herself into learning about the business of managing a professional boxer, studying training methods and drawing up an appropriate diet. “I even cook for him during the last two weeks leading up to a fight,” she adds.

Chilemba, under Jodi’s close supervision, trains six days a week. “Colin and Isaac get along fantastically and I go along to the gym three or four times a week to keep an eye on what’s happening. Isaac is no problem to manage as he is a very conservative and clean living young man. Right now he is putting his younger brother through school. What is so amazing is the change I have seen in him since we got together. Isaac’s life has done a 180 degree turnabout. He needs international experience and I believe he has what it takes to go all the way (a sentiment echoed by Colin Nathan). But at the age of just 22 there is no huge hurry to push him to the top,” Jodi points out. For the record, Isaac’s next fight is scheduled to take place on a Golden Gloves promotion at the Emperor’s Palace on 31 October when he meets the unbeaten French-based DRC fighter, Doudou Ngumbu who is 20-0 in a 12 round contest which has been granted the status of a WBC International championship fight. A win for Chilemba, whose record stands at 13-1 at time of writing, will certainly serve to project him onto the world stage.

The conversation changes to Jodi’s domestic life and she talks with fond affection of her two children – her 10-year-old daughter, Akira and her sixyear- old son, Tyler. “Any mother with kids that age will know the expression ‘Mum’s Taxi’. The ferrying to and fro never ever stops,” she says. Over above her time allocated
to her children and to Isaac, Jodi manages to fit in the hours doing reflexology and sports massage at a doctor’s surgery she shares in Lyndhurst.

Just as we are winding up this interesting chat she drops a bombshell. “Were you aware that I am a direct biological descendent – great granddaughter
(X 3) – of a famous English bare knuckle fighter called Jem Mace?” she asks. I discover that she does not know too much about the antecedents of Jem Mace
and I am able to inform her that he was the last British heavyweight champion under bare knuckle rules. Mace’s history reveals that he was something of a philanderer who had several wives and who, at some stage in his life, made a couple of trips to Cape Town. Perhaps it can be assumed that there exist genuine boxing genes in this ambitious lady which stem from one of the greatest old
champions of all time.