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.