By Chris Totobela
This week in our Heritage Month feature, we bring you one of the greatest sporting icons Makhanda has ever produced. Mzimasi Christopher Mthana, affectionately known to his fans as Stopper, started his boxing career in 1974 with the Grahamstown Boxing Club. In 1978, he joined Fundisile Boxing Club where he pushed himself even harder. By 1981, he was the talk of the town as he showed tremendous improvement, stopping every opponent he came across in the ring.
He told Grocott’s Mail that he got his ring name, Stopper, from the late Fundisile Ralo Zanta and the late Kid Zaphule Kotyi who were his mentors. In 1988, he turned professional under the strict guidance of ANC councillor and boxing mentor, Ramie Xonxa, and enjoyed a wonderful professional career. His best, but most difficult fight, was against Mdantsane-based hard punching and knockout specialist, Mzokolo Gxeki, at Sisa Dukashe stadium over six rounds.
Stopper remembers that bout as if it was yesterday. “I went to this fight well prepared. I was in good shape. A lot of boxing fans from Makhanda accompanied me to this fight as it was one of the biggest fights in the Eastern Cape. The stadium was packed and after absorbing so much pressure in the first three rounds, I knocked Gxeke out in the fourth round. I was happy that I did not disappoint the people of Makhanda”, he said.
Mthana decided to hang up his gloves after years of professional boxing and started his own boxing club, Golden Gloves. “I wanted to use the talent that God blessed me with to take kids off the streets and share my skills with them”, he said. Golden Gloves Boxing Club trains every day of the week at the BB Zondani Hall and Mthana urges parents to encourage their children to play sports and stay away from drugs.
Mthana is blessed with twins who are following in his footsteps, son Zukhanye who is also a boxer, and daughter Khanyisa who is a boxing referee, judge, and matchmaker. Zukhanye told Grocott’s Mail, “My father loves his family, but when it comes to boxing he is very strict. At training he treats me like any other boxer. He doesn’t give me any special treatment as his son,” said Zukhanye.
His daughter, Khanyisa, also shared her views with Grocott’s Mail. “He is so passionate about boxing and talks about it at home all the time. He introduced me to boxing at a very young age and I fell in love with it. He taught me about refereeing, judging, and matchmaking, and at home he always teaches me about the movement in the ring. Boxing is his life and he is doing his best for the community,” she said.
Khanyisa also commented on her twin brother’s boxing journey. “At first, it was not easy to watch him fight as I always wanted to get in the ring and help him. But I’ve got used to it and he has improved a lot and I’m super proud of him,” she said.
Mthana says he is happy with the current standard of boxing in Makhanda. “Our boxing has improved a lot after it went down over the years. The only thing that is left for us to do now is to take boxing back to school and start there. Lastly, I want all those people who left us who contributed to boxing in Makhanda including the late closest friend of mine Bulelani “Stekelina ” Ndwayana to rest peacefully knowing that I’m doing my best to carry the baton and rescue our young people from drugs through boxing,” he said.
Mthana has contributed immensely to the sport of boxing in Makhanda both as a boxer and a trainer and deserves the recognition that Grocott’s Mail is giving him.