Wednesday, 6 April 2016: For Tanner Metodes, a grade 9-learner at Northcliff House College in Hermanus, meeting Overstrand Mayor Nicolette Botha-Guthrie and receiving her warm praise, proved to be the proverbial ‘cherry on top’ of the boxing gold medal he achieved at the recently held National Boxing Championship.
15-year old Tanner’s accomplishment is all the more remarkable given that he only entered the boxing arena a mere six months back. However, being schooled in Mixed Martial Arts from age 11, and clocking up considerable awards like being crowned the SA Open Kickboxing Champ in 2014, has in all likelihood served him well as the focus, discipline and agility required of the sport has certainly stood him in good stead
Whilst a grade 8-pupil at Wynberg Boys High School in Cape Town last year, Tanner’s Mixed Martial Arts instructor at the time, recognised the lad’s potential in wrestling and boxing as well, and approached him to train with the group of pros under his tutelage.
Being a diabetic unfortunately meant having to make the agonising decision towards the end of 2015 to move back to his home town of Hermanus, when the boarding facilities at Wynberg Boys was shown to be unsuitable in providing the specific dietary requirements necessary to combat the disease.
Tanner credits the aforementioned instructor for motivating him to find a new coach and boxing club once settled in Hermanus. Strengthened by this resolve, and after exhausting a number of enquiries, he and his ever-supportive mom, Paula Mortenson were eventually directed to Mzi Damesi of Overstrand Whale Boxing Club (OWBC) in Zwelihle.
It was here that the mom and son duo experienced first-hand the harsh reality that many of the country’s mostly township dwelling boxing aspirants are faced with. “I must admit, it was a bit of a shock at first when I saw how dilapidated and small the training facility was. However, I was so encouraged by Mzi’s passion and dedication to the sport that I told my mom I definitely wanted to give it a go.”
“What stood out for me most, was that even with limited means, Mzi and the OWBC continue to provide amazing sporting opportunities for kids in the area and has raked up a number of prestigious awards. For instance, earlier this year I learned that another one of Mzi’s boxing protégés Akhule Mgoqi, a grade-five learner at Zwelihle Primary, won a silver medal at the 2015 National Champs,” enthused Metodes.
Speaking to the value sport like boxing adds to the community the Mayor quantified, “Our kids need to be involved in constructive activities that will keep them off the streets and away from temptations like crime, gangsterism or substance abuse. Sport, in particular, brings communities together and serves to promote social cohesion and integration.”
Echoing that sentiment, mom Paula added, “I was heartened by the fact that boxing has the ability to transcend any language or cultural barriers that may exist, as I find it dances to its own language.”
Damesi pointed out that they are faced with enormous challenges that sometimes prevent them from participating in programmes that could ideally boost the Club’s development and standing. “I am always honoured when any of my boxers are selected to compete at national level. I know that with proper endorsements they can achieve great things. However, the lack of funds means that at times we are unable to get these kids to events and tournaments, or provide them with proper equipment, and that is hampering their progress. Most come from very poor homes where finance is a real problem,” stated Damesi.