Two years after a horrific robbery in his Site C Khayelitsha home put an end to his boxing career, Mzuvukile Magwaca is starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
The night in January 2018 will forever be etched in his mind.
At the time of the incident, Old Bones, as he is called in boxing circles, had IBF and WBF inter-continental titles.
He was shot in the left leg with an R4 rifle when he couldn’t help robbers take down the TV mounted on the wall. The bones above his knee were shattered.
Even though his life and that of his family was spared by the four men, who have still not been caught, they took away his once flourishing boxing career and left him dead spiritually.
As they fled, before he could even make it to the hospital, all that was running through his mind was how that moment had ended his dream of dominating the boxing ring. He did not pay attention to the pain but seeing his leg hanging by the skin, was the moment he knew he would have to find another way to survive as boxing was his only source of income and the sport he hoped would help him to provide a better life for his family.
Renowned boxing writer, Bongani Magasela could not have put it better when a month later, he wrote that even though Magwaca had survived the shooting, the champ resembled a dead man as he had to learn to walk all over again.
The news sent shockwaves throughout the country as he had been well on his way to living his dream.
To make matters worse, 2018 was supposed to be his breakthrough year on the world stage as he was likely to make it to the World Boxing Super Series where he would have faced some of the world’s best boxers, such as Nonito Donaire, Ryan Burnett and Zolani Tete.
He was in the final stages of securing a preliminary bout and the win would have taken him to the main tournament. With an unbeaten record after 23 fights, he was a heavily favoured bantamweight to make it through.
“That was my time to shine. It was the moment I had been working towards all my boxing career. Everything was all set and we even had the date. I could feel my life changing significantly because I looked at the record of the guy I was to fight and I knew I would easily dispatch him.”
As Magwaca recalled the moment he was forced to walk away from all what he had worked for, he said what pains him the most is the feeling of being abandoned by the boxing fraternity.
He said he had been carrying the SA boxing flag with pride but found no one on his side when the realisation came that he was never going to make it inside the ring again.
“I was alone, I had to deal with the aftermath of the whole situation by myself. I never even got the counselling to help me deal with what I went through.
“Remember I am a breadwinner at home so as broken as I was I had to pick myself up and find other means to support my family but it was difficult because I never knew anything besides boxing,” he said.
Magwaca said there were promises to help him with medical expenses for his operations but they never materialised.
“But that’s how life goes, I was not good for business anymore so all the people that were around me were nowhere to be found.
“I even had to resort to the bottle and I was drinking heavily during my recovery period because I didn’t know how else to deal with the pain I had. In this period I sometimes would lock myself in a room and just cry myself to sleep.
“I have two kids and brothers that depend on me so I realised that I had to find a way to survive, learn new things and find the means to continue supporting them.”
A good Samaritan by the name of Cammy Fernandez was the only one who sympathised with him during his recovery period as he knew at that stage Magwaca was not making enough money for all the operations he needed while supporting his family.
“He had no business helping me at all, he is just a guy who loves boxing and was a supporter. But he came in and was paying for my medical expenses during my operations and gave me my first job in his coffee business. I had to learn how to make coffee and worked at his business for a while.”
Being left to deal with the pain of losing his promising career alone left Old Bones wounded and he grew hateful towards boxing.
However, he found it difficult to walk away from the sport that made him. He still has aspirations of a world title, only this time it will be by nurturing new talent.
After spending some time with his friend, Lwandile Gugushe as a trainer at Luvuyo Boxing Club, he then joined Pride Fighting Academy at the recommendation of his friend and ring announcer Devon “DC” Currer.
The injury to his leg means he cannot run or even bend his knee which deters his movement, but he is confident that the lessons he acquired in his short boxing career can be transferred to someone else to use and achieve what he was not able to.
“I didn’t know anything about training until I had to because of my injury. It’s still strange to not be the one on the receiving end of some coaching techniques but I learn everyday. It’s difficult to just walk away because I have been doing this thing since I was eight.
“Even though my dream was taken away I wish I can still help someone achieve theirs by transferring the skills I have learned all these years to them,” he said.