“One day I will be a champ.” See what he’s fighting for

 

Stabbed three times in the back. Indoctrinated into gang life. At just 13 years of age, Jerome Femela was on a dark and painful path – a representation of a generation of lost youth around South Africa. And then he met Bongile Centane. A boxing coach, Centane saw something in the kid, pulled him off the streets, and turned his life around.

Boxing is a violent sport, but it’s controlled. It has rules, demands total focus and discipline. In the rigour and structure of competitive training, Femela has found a constructive outlet. He trains with Centane five times a week. There’s no financial incentive for Centane, who trains Femela and the other kids visiting the gym for free.

Femela’s voice is soft, gentle. It’s impossible to discern the violence of his past from his tone. It’s when he speaks about his goals that the edge comes through. “One day I will be a South African champion,” he says. The way he’s going, it doesn’t look like he’ll stop there.