The Smith Family - by Pete Moscardi

The gym is compact, but neat and spotlessly clean. It is well equipped with a tiny ring and some 12 heavy bags plus pear balls and speed balls. There is also an array of various keepfit machines. This is the Cedar Square, Fourways headquarters of 40-year-old Peter Smith and younger brother Sean (35). A middle brother, George, also takes an active interest.

Peter Smith is an ex-heavyweight with film star looks who burst on the current fight scene when, more or less out of the blue, he emerged from a recent Golden Gloves bill at Emperor’s Palace with a hat-trick of three sensational winners. Chris van Heerden hammered out a grueling, but unanimous, points victory over
Bongani Mwelase in an IBO elimination contest, while Tshepang Mohale stunned the boxing world by scoring a pulverizing second round TKO win over Johnny Muller to
capture the South African light heavyweight title. A third winner from the Smith camp was Thabiso Mchunu who pounded out an eight-round points win over Danie Venter.

This was not Peter’s first entry into boxing as a trainer as he had previously had a brief and unsuccessful involvement with Ruben Groenewald who was stopped by the
former South African heavyweight champion, Daniel Bruwer on a Carnival City show. “I had to walk away from Ruben as he was not in the right shape for boxing and, besides, he is an asthmatic,” says Peter.

Smith has a boxing lineage in his family as his dad, Kosie, was once the fear of all
light heavyweights. Kosie was a wicked puncher who once came within a whisker of winning a world title when he had the then champion, Victor Galindez, all at sea in
the fourth round after catching the champion with a barrage of punches. Galindez, however, was cagey and tough and managed to slip out of the net to retain his title on points after a thrilling fight.

Peter himself has been through the tough milieu of the boxing ring and, in the latter part of his career, spent from 1998 to 2002 in the US where he fought out of both Las Vegas and California, ending his career in June 2002 with a points win over James Lester. It was a fascinating period of his life. “I went to California after losing to John McCain at the Carousel on a TKO when I challenged for the
WBU super cruiserweight title. I signed up with Don King and lived in Venice Beach near Los Angeles. I was single at the time but was going through a tough time in the US. I worked in the movie industry and played a character part in two movies – as a fighter in ‘Dare Devil’ and as a Mexican cage fighter in ‘Red Belt’. I trained under Oscar de la Hoya and also doubled as his bodyguard – and was also
contracted to do modeling gigs. I returned to RSA at the end of 2003,” he says.

The brothers Smith have two training centres which focus on getting their fighters into top condition. There is the modern Cedar Square facility which was opened by
Sean some five years ago as a boxercise/training, health and fitness gym which he runs. “Sparring is carried out at this facility while the training happens at my own gym located in the garage at the family home in Linden. This facility contains
eight heavy bags and a speed ball and all preparation, other than sparring, happens here. This gym has been in existence ever since my dad was fighting. Tshepang Mohale was the first fighter to train here. Following this Ruben Groenewald joined me and I trained him for the Bruwer fight. I advised Ruben to retire after that fight as I really saw no future for him. Johnny Muller was Mohale’s first opponent after he had joined me and he destroyed Johnny by stopping him in the third round to take the lightheavyweight title,” he adds.

“The next fighter to come on board with me was the South African welterweight champion, Chris van Heerden. I watched a tape of one of his fights and saw that he was far too open. I worked on his defence and he showed considerable improvement in his fight with Mwelase in which he got hit far less than he usually does. I’m expecting big things from Chris, who fights Kaizer Mabuza on 24 September for the vacant IBO title,” Peter said.

The brothers split the training duties, with Sean looking after Thabiso Mchunu and with Peter in charge of Chris and Tshepang. “I have long term hopes and plans for Chris who I regard as a tremendous prospect. I want him to win the IBO title and then defend it. Thereafter I want to build him up for the next plus/minus two years before launching him on the big names in the top ten,” he said.

The brothers Smith may well be regarded as the new kids on the block. But Peter has been through the school of hard knocks himself and knows the ins-and-outs of the fight game like a seasoned old pro. And if their aims and ambitions are to be believed, big things can be expected from these fresh-faced additions to the South
African boxing scene.