Boxing GlovesWhat an interesting day. My thoughts are bouncing between two extraordinary men: South African Freedom Fighter Nelson Mandela in death and Heavyweight Champion George Chuvalo in life.

Both boxers. Both fathers. Both men whose single-minded push through extraordinary pain has and is changing lives.

If you are a reader of this blog then you will know that I went to Africa in the summer of 2012 partly to write about and explore the stories of the people I found there.

Among the more profound experiences for me was a trip to Robben Island off the coast of Capetown where Mandela was held prisoner for 27 years. The guides for the prison were former prisoners and no detail of the senseless brutality was spared.  I am always shocked by the human capacity for cruelty. The experience of Robben Island; the treatment of inmates and the attempts at dividing and conquering the prisoners left an indelible impression on me.


Like a bird in a not so gilded cage – how did Mandela survive?

Earlier today, I sat and had a coffee with George Chuvalo, his pal Graham Mottram and my pals Giorgio and Michael.

George has endured more than his fair share of heartache which has included the suicides of one son and his first wife, the deaths by heroin overdoses by two other sons and the loss earlier this year of a granddaughter to cancer.

Trapped by tragedy – how did Chuvalo survive?

It stands to reason for me that boxing offered the lessons both men would need to persevere. In the boxing ring, being able to accept the pain inflicted on you by your opponent is part of the game. In life it is much the same. You don’t have to like it but you know it’s coming and you’re going to have to deal with it.

It is how you manage the pain and what it provokes you to do that separates those who inspire from those who fade into the woodwork.

For Mandela, his pain inspired a steely resolve to ensure that the children of his nation would not have to suffer under apartheid.

For Chuvalo, his pain spurred him on to a mindset where nobody’s child should be lost to drugs. He and wife Joanne have created an organization dedicated to just that:

Words inspire me:

George Chuvalo`s book `Chuvalo – A Fighter`s Life. The Story of Boxing`s Last Gladiator`offered me insight into a sport I know nothing about and personal lessons about putting one foot in front of another – regardless.

So wise and articulate; for me, the following from Mandela are words to live by:

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” –  Nelson Mandela. 1918-2013.