Wits’ female boxers are dropping out of the sport because of the lack of opponents at tournaments and the gruelling preparatory training necessary for bouts that are not “in the bag”.

Bakholise Mabuyane, chairperson of the Wits Boxing Club and vice chairperson of University Sports South Africa, has been boxing since 2008 but has not had one fight.

“Every time I decide to go for a tournament, I don’t get anyone in my division,” she says.

Mabuyane is a light welterweight and is the only female boxer in the gym who fights in that division. She says her boxing has improved over the years – despite having zero fights on her card – because she spars with the guys.

“It’s quite disappointing training for a tournament and not getting a fight and even when you host a tournament you sort of don’t look forward to it because you know there’s zero chance of getting an opponent.”

Tando Melapi, who revived the club as a Witsie in 1998, is helping the senior boxers train for the Johannesburg Amateur Boxing Organisation tournament at Wits on August 27.

“It’s a universal phenomenon that female boxing is not so popular and relatively new. It’s seen as rough and for tomboys,” says Melapi.

He says, in the past, coaches who wanted their female boxers to gain ring experience would find women in a division close to their boxer’s and the boxers had to lose or gain weight to allow for a fight in the same division.

“What helped us before at Wits is that we had many females who wanted to fight and two coaches which meant we could not ignore female boxing and had to be innovative.”

The stable currently does not have a formal coach and Mabuyane says there are far fewer competitive female boxers than when she started.

“It feels like the fact that females are competing in the sport hasn’t been appreciated. People aren’t supporting it and society doesn’t encourage female boxing,” she says.