Boxing Snippets

60 seconds with legendary Brian Mitchell

He’s now into his seventh decade and showing no signs of slowing down. Brian Mitchell – fighter, champion, storyteller, good guy – talks about his life and the state of boxing.

It’s almost 30 years since your last pro bout and yet you remain among South Africa’s most relevant and popular boxing personalities. How have you managed this?
It’s all thanks to Golden Gloves, SuperSport and the big corporates I do work for. There’s the commentary, PR, charity work, golf days and guest speaking; and all because of this great sport.

Do you miss being a fighter?
I do. The highs of fitness, being fit . . . there’s nothing like it. It’s as if you are walking on water. Pro boxers are the ultimate in fitness. But I’m turning 63 soon, having been in the sport for 54 years. I’m pleased to still be involved.

How do you feel about the state of the game locally and internationally?
People always say boxing is dying. Other sports have grown, like cricket which has exploded off the back of the IPL and of course South Africa has won four rugby World Cups, but boxing will always have its place. Golden Gloves and other promoters have done a great job keeping the flag flying.
The one thing boxing hasn’t done is evolve. I think guys from 40 years ago were better.
Overseas there are big stars like Tank Davis and Canelo Alvarez, but the sport can’t be how it was in the 1980’s. But it’s not bad. Guys are earning millions. People talk about MMA, but their best aren’t earning purses of $150-million like Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk. Boxing is hardly dying.

Who are your three favourite active boxers?
Tank Davis, Canelo and Naoya Inoue.

And all-time best?
Both Sugar Rays: Robinson and Leonard, and Joe Louis.

Overseas we see boxers like Inoue, Tank and Artur Beterbiev destroying the opposition. In the past we had boxers like Corrie Sanders and Phillip Ndou, who could really crack. What has happened to South Africa’s punchers?
They just aren’t there. It seems like our fighters just don’t punch the same way they did in the past. Guys aren’t turning their punches over and throwing hard. I don’t know what it is, it’s just not happening.

You’ve been involved in Roarke Knapp’s journey. He took a heavy loss last time out and there may be a rematch. What must he do to turn things around?
He’s been training out of my gym. I’d love to help Roarke get back defensively. He must learn to be more defensive than offensive. I’ve discussed this with Vusi Mtolo, his trainer. Look at Vuyani Bungu, who kept his hands so high and tight. He was a defensive master.

What do you do to relax and have fun?
I play golf. I also enjoy visiting the Virgin Active in Glenvista, a fantastic facility. I check out a lot of YouTube and I’m down at my boxing gym three times a week.

Who is the pound-for-pound number one?
Naoya Inoue is a superstar.

What is your take on celebrity/YouTube boxing?
I don’t bother with it, and won’t watch. It means nothing to me, not my cup of tea.

If you could invite any three people to dinner – dead or alive – who would you choose?
Sugar Ray Robinson, my late dad Brian, and Tiger Woods.

You can’t name yourself, but who else deserves to be in the conversation as SA’s greatest boxer?
I can’t split them – Vuyani Bungu and Hekkie Budler. They were both different and achieved very differently, but it’s hard to say who was better. Everybody else comes after those two.

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