Shannon Strydom by Pete Moscardi

South African boxing has come alive in recent times with the most welcome injection of promising young talent. Hardly a show passes without the introduction
from the ring of fresh and new faces who are on the cusp of breaking into the professional ranks. This glut of fresh talent has not been seen for many years. New
names such as Ryno Liebenberg, Joey Stiglingh, Johnny Muller, Adam De Moor and Alan Bouwer are just some of the names which are exciting boxing fans. It is worthwhile paying attention to these youngsters, for today’s prospects are tomorrow’s champions.

Waiting in the wings is another new kid on the block who, at the time of writing, was just a few days away from his 18th birthday and the acquisition of his professional licence. Although Shannon Strydom is not a name yet known to the
professional game, he comes from good fighting stock and an excellent pedigree of
a notable amateur career. His dad, Gert, is both his mentor and his inspiration. “My dad’s life is totally involved around boxing as he is a leading trainer and has trained world champions such as Cassius Baloyi, Malcolm Klassen and Takalani Ndlovu. As almost every living hour of his day is somehow connected to boxing, there is no way that I could not get involved myself,” he says.

Shannon, who is in grade 11 at Hoerskool Florida, lives with his dad and two sisters (Sasha,14 and Sharne,21) at the family home in Little Falls. Shannon’s first memory of boxing is of his father taking him to a tournament at the Wembley Indoor Arena when he was just six. “From that moment I fell in love with boxing,” he says. Just a year later, when the young Shannon was seven, he was being trained by his father and Manny Fernandez, who is Gert Strydom’s partner. I helped Manny and my dad in the corner and when I was just 15 I obtained a
cornerman’s licence,” he recalls.

Shannon was 15 when he had his first amateur contest, being matched against
William Bankasi who, at that stage, had had 33 fights and who had competed in
the South African championships. The match was made at 67kg and Shannon had his opponent on the canvas twice before losing a narrow decision in their fight at Toekomsrus. “I was happy about my performance as there was such a wide gap in experience compared to my more seasoned opponent. I represented my dad’s club which was the Newville Club in Newlands. My mum was not too happy about my boxing career at that time, but today she regularly attends my fights,” he says.

Following the loss in his first outing Shannon went on to win his next three
contests by KO, but dropped a points decision in his fifth contest to Paul
Kamanga who was a Gauteng junior champion. Shannon came up against a tough opponent in his sixth fight when he dropped another close decision to Duane Combrink, but he bounced back by beating Duncan Morris twice – the second time in the Gauteng Cadet Championships. Shannon went into the finals of this tournament and outpointed Danny Coetzee to capture his first title.

“I subsequently went on to compete in the S A Junior Championships in Cape
Town, losing by a score of 21-19 in the semi-finals to a Cape Town boxer who
went on to win the SA junior title. This was my last fight as a junior and I had only two fights as a senior. The first was against my old opponent, Duane Combrink, who again beat me on a split decision. My second and last fight with a vest on was against a 28-year-old boxer from Alberton, whose surname was Matiane. I was still 17 but I got the win on points in our fight in July this year in Alberton,” he recalls.

Shannon says that thereafter he had a problem in getting fights and so decided to
sharpen his skills and further his experience by sparring with the pros in his dad’s gym. “I regularly spar with the likes of Kaizer Mabuza, Oscar Chauke, Jasper Seroka and Ryno Liebenberg. My dad is tough on me and he does not ask these guys to take it easy with me,” he says with a wry grin.

Shannon openly admits that his schooling does not occupy too much of his attention, but stresses that boxing has become an obsession. He intends to enter the professional ranks as a junior-welterweight and says he cannot wait to get his license and to have his first professional fight. “I have an orthodox style but I can easily switch, and find I am able to either box or fight and can adapt to the style of my opponent,” he says.

With this degree of dedication, and a father who is one of this country’s leading
professional trainers, the odds of Shannon succeeding in his professional career are all stacked in his favour.