Stellenbosch resident and estate agent Droeks Malan is fast becoming a reliable ringside pundit with incisive knowledge of boxing.
Malan, 45, was bitten by a boxing bug in 1987 as a 14-year-old boy, when Sugar Ray Leonard collided with “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler.
Thirty years ago, Leonard snapped a three-year retirement due to a detached retina and, at age 30, moved up two weight classes (without a tune-up fight) to face legendary middleweight champion Hagler.
The result remains one of the most contentious scoring debates to date, as Leonard pulled the upset at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
The fight ingrained boxing into Malan’s life.
“My parents had the MNet channel, and I could watch the fight on television. It was exciting; the guys were zapping each other each other with the most cruel punches you are yet to see in boxing,” Malan said, when we met at the Somerset Mall last Thursday to talk boxing.
Malan started following and researching boxing worldwide. In 1990, he badly wanted to watch Welcome “The Hawk” Ncita fighting Fabrice Benichou in Tel Aviv, but sadly his parents had not paid their subscription to MNet.
He resorted to following the fight via a radio commentary, and the only station broadcasting the fight was Umhlobo Wenene FM, a national Xhosa station.
“I could not understand a word, but I could sense Ncita was winning because the commentators were very excited.
The Hawk went on to win the title, and ruled the division with an iron fist until he was dethroned by Kennedy Mckinney in 1992,” said Malan.
That radio experience drove Malan to learn and subsequently master isiXhosa.
Being the modest man he is, Malan tells a waitor who serves us that “isiXhosa sam sifana ne airtime siphela msinya” (“my isiXhosa is just like airtime, it expires quickly”).
In fact, Malan took matters further, and obtained a Master’s degree in African languages, and was a lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch.
But it is the boxing bug that keeps moving Malan. In early 1990s he wrote a letter to the editor of Boxing World, the late Bert Blewitt, and the rest is history.
Blewitt was blown away by his analysis, and asked him to write in-depth pieces for the magazine.
As his ringside stature grew, Malan made contact with Ring Magazine – an authoritative institution that others refer to as “bible of boxing” – and he is now their South African correspondent.
“I write them stories on SA boxers, and do round-ups on top matches taking place here,” he said. He also does analysis for Kwese Sports and RingTV.com