News February 2013

86 first-round KO’s- the Courage Tshabalala story


By Michael J Jones

Big puncher-Tshabalala

There are many ‘what ifs’ in boxing, most are the endless fan questions regarding fighters who had so much potential but never quite lived up to the hype.

One such fighter is former big-punching heavyweight contender Courage Tshabalala. He had it all; natural power, athleticism, fast hands, good body puncher and good finishing skills. When the 6’2 banger turned pro almost exactly twenty years ago it was off the back of an unbelievable 72-1 amateur record with every win coming by knock-out.

Despite some tremendous early finishes on the way up, Tshabalala never seemed to bring his best form when it mattered suffering stoppage defeats to the likes of Darroll Wilson and Oleg Maskaev. Many surmised the talented South African could dish out the punishment but not take the same in return. He still had Wilson down twice and broke Maskaev’s ribs.

The murderous-hitting Eshowe fighter finally retired in 2005 with a fine 26-4 (22) record. To give some idea of the power Tshabalala had in his fists, 14 of his quick wins came in the first round; a few didn’t even see-out the first minute...

Now a respected co-trainer based in Colorado, Courage took the time to discuss his boxing career to Livefight. Here’s what he had to say-

LF) How did you first become interested in boxing?

CT) I think as early as nine-years-old but my mom would not let me (at first). Back then, boxing was associated with thugs, hooligans etc. It was that era of course, boxing was a sport misrepresented and misunderstood. I for one knew that the world was bigger.

I can remember sitting in my mother’s garden at the age of ten looking as the plane flew by thinking, there are passengers heading somewhere. I always wanted to go (on a plane). I was a misfit in my neighbourhood, small, spoke English at a very early age which was not favourable because of obvious reasons.

After I won my very first tournament, I was given a plastic bag with a few items; two white t-shirts and a face towel. Seeing the excitement in me, one of the adults came to me and told me that there where bigger tournaments with bigger bags filled with more clothes and shoes etc. I made it a point to win so I can find out what was in the next bag. I'm a gutter kid you see, who had no shoes or clothes except at Christmas and even then we had to make a choice; town shoes or clothes never both.

I read the book "Power of One” years later when I got it signed by the legendary Lou Duva. He introduced me into the lives of Jack Johnson, Muhammad Ali (who I met twice), Riddick Bowe, ‘Iron’ Mike and my favourite; Joe Louis.

LF) It’s documented that after losing your first amateur fight by decision you then scored 72 first-round knock-outs; is that true?

CT) As far as my amateur record yes I did win by first-round KO's all the way up to the nationals. How many I can't say for real, my former manager and trainer Nick (Durandt) kept track of all my knock-outs. Back then I fought every week and in the gym; several tournaments. I never took silver or bronze all gold medals.

I started my pro career in South Africa with Nick as my trainer and manager and Cedrick Kushner as my promoter.

LF) You started your pro career in SA for five fights before basing yourself in the USA, within three years you were 19-0 with 16 knockouts. Did you ever spar or have your eyes on fighting any other heavyweight prospects around that time-Michael Grant, Ike Ibeabuchi, David Tua etc?

CT) David Tua and I were room-mates for a while and we had some very competitive sparring sessions. He remains a good friend of mine. We held training camps with many young heavyweights including Michael Grant , Gary bell, Henry Akinwande, Hasin Rahman, Larry Donald to mention a few. I also was in camp with John Ruiz, Lamon Brewster, the Klitschko brothers, the late Arturo Gatti, Junior ‘Poison’ Jones, 'Sweet Pea' Whitaker. Years later I met Mike Tyson, who at the time was being trained by Tommy Brooks my trainer.

As you can see from the list even though I didn't fight for the (world) title my career was spent around champions and top contenders of the game. I'm happy with my name being mentioned (alongside those guys). Its been an amazing time.

LF) Did the power come naturally or was there any special training you did to gain maximum power?

CT) I guess it was God given. I was a strong kid naturally.

LF) Your first loss was to a guy who was 53lbs heavier than you Brian Scott...what happened, it was meant to be a comfortable win for you?

Courage is now a coach

CT) With Brian Scott my first loss I had bust my ear drum ten days before the fight. I shouldn't have taken the fight but I didn't want to turn down the opportunity to fight on HBO. Also I had been in camp for so long...sparring partners, trainers, bills needed to be paid.

LF) Six months after your first pro loss you had that unforgettable fight with Darroll Wilson at the Blue Horizon. You were the boss for three rounds and dropped him twice but he came back right at you in the fourth. Talk me through that fight?

CT) My training camp was unbelievable (before that fight). I looked good, I ran, I left no stone unturned. He had been knocked out by my roommate ‘Tuaman’. I had no doubt about (doing the same). Boxing is about discipline. Discipline to control ones emotions, sticking with the game plan that's what I learned from that fight. Wilson was the better man that night.

LF) You came back with three very good stoppage wins before fighting future WBC champion Oleg Maskaev in Russia. You busted his ribs pretty good before suffering a nine-round defeat. Were you surprised he came back from the rib injury to win that fight?

CT) What a guy and still today I don't know how he came back. What very few people know is that every time he hit me and I caught that hook, my whole side vibrated. It was the strangest feeling ever. I have been around and fought, sparred some hard hitters but Oleg's power was out of sight. I pi**ed blood after that fight. No regrets though.

LF) You took five years out after that fight; were you disillusioned with the fight game at that stage?

CT) Yes I was, I took time off, I had already started training fighters under Tommy Brooks.

LF) What made you decide to comeback five years later in 2003?

CT) Love for the game. Once (boxing) is in the life, it always stays. I'm passionate about the sport. I don't think one can totally walk away. I feel like there is still more in me and I'm definitely a better teacher than I was a fighter. I'm happy with where I'm at and my decisions.

LF) You scored a split decision over tricky veteran Lenzie Morgan before scoring a very explosive first round KO over John Sargent before finding Robert Wiggins too much soon after. You were still only 35-years-old was walking away an easy decision?

CT) At 35 I felt like the sport changed. The fight deals were not the same. I had no manager; my trainer was working with different fighters internationally. I had the opportunity of working with the 2008 bronze medallist Tony Jeffries because of Tommy Brooks. I have learned so much about the sport. You don't walk away from something one is passionate about.

LF) So can you tell us what you've been up to in the subsequent years are you still training in the USA with Tommy Brooks?

CT) Yes I'm still in the US training fighters. Not too long ago my South African coach and manager Nick Durandt brought (Jeffrey) Mathebula to fight Nonito (Donaire). It was good to catch up. Yes I'm still associated with Mr Brooks and his family. I jump at every opportunity to work with him.

LF) Tony Jefferies had to retire a short while ago due to injury problems. How good could Tony have been with those hands had held up?

CT) Tony Jeffries was one hard puncher. He most definitely would have gone far had his hands held up. He was just beginning to adjust into being a pro fighter. I still keep in contact with him, good person and very coachable.

LF) Fan question from me....did you ever spar or come close to fight Corrie Sanders?

CT) Corrie Sanders is going to be missed dearly. There were opportunities to spar with each other but of course business came in the way. It was believed we would meet some day but unfortunately our path ran parrallel and never met. One hell of a fighter and puncher.

LF) Courage thank you.

18 second Tshabalala knock-out-

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