Boxing Gogos are the boxing grannies. They are strong and they punch hard.
The first time I heard of the South African Boxing Grannies as they are widely known, I imagined a staged performance. In my mind the grannies were posing with gloves next to a punching bag ready for a photoshoot. I expected no serious activity at all. Boy was I wrong.
Coach Claude Maphosa, the founder of The A Team is a fitness instructor, a former bodybuilder and the man behind the Boxing Grannies non-profit organisation. This is the man who also forced me to compete with the grannies.
Maphosa’s meeting with the gogos was by chance. He had just opened his gym in Cosmo City, Johannesburg when the senior ladies approached him and asked to join.
“At first I thought they were joking and I replied and said they may join the gym also teasingly, but then I later realised this was not a joke. I therefore said they must come and start, thinking they would get tired and disappear but they just stayed on and kept coming back,” says Maphosa.
For Maphosa, being a man of prayer, this meant an instruction from God to serve and look after the elderly. He has never looked back since and the grannies have been coming to the gym every Tuesday and Thursday for the past five years since that day and they have no plans to quit.
“I love what I do. Every week for two days I must look after the gogos. I need to buy snacks and food because they cannot exercise on empty stomachs. They make use of the gym equipment and off course they do not pay fees for the gym and sometimes I have to provide transport as some of them travel from far especially when we have events and special activities,” says Maphosa.
It was one of these days that I was asked to come to the gym to observe and perhaps I would consider an interview and so I went. Only to be subjected to a serious case of awkwardness coupled with weight lifting, squatting and sparring. Let alone being completely worn-out before the grannies.
During a training day the grannies come early in the morning just before 9am and start with prayer. Thereafter they will have a healthy morning snack with garlic and lemon to build energy for the tough day ahead. They will then take rounds to warm up and get onto the fitness equipment before going onto the boxing ring and the punch bag. Once they are done they will stretch, and get some fruits to regain energy.
The number of grannies joining the gym has grown over the years and currently there are just over 50 on the programme including the Soweto group. Their ages are between 60 and 90 years.
Gogo Constance Ngubane is 81 and says since starting with The A Team 5 years ago her health has improved significantly. “I used to go to the doctor frequently before joining the gym and since starting here I hardly see my doctor and I have so much energy. I feel like a 20 year old.,” says Gogo Constance.
In hindsight, Coach Claude as the grannies call him, did warn me before I arrived at the gym when he said the grannies were extremely fit and were able to lift weights and he is quite keen to see how things will turn out today. Some call them the Boxing Gogos others Boxing Grannies. They have been featured by world’s media giants such as CNN, BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph, USA Today, ETV, SABC the list is endless.
These seniors will amaze you with their zeal, fitness and strength which many youngsters can only dream of.