Boxing is a tough sport, but so are the grannies of Cosmo City, a suburb in South Africa’s economic capital Johannesburg. Aged between 75 and 80 years old, they box to fight the aches and pains of old age and to keep fit.
Granny Mariam Barie says being in the ring keeps her feeling young and energetic.
“The advice I give to other grannies like me is that they should leave the old way of telling themselves that they are old and they are grannies and to try their best. Just because you are a granny does not mean you need to burden yourself with that word ‘Granny’. You need to wake yourself up and show that you are a granny with life,” she said.
“They are taking care of their grandchildren, cleaning the house some of them. So, most of them we tried, we thought that boxing is the one that will also make them relax; make them think; make them young again,” said trainer Boitumelo Mootane.
The gym offers two sessions a week that include cardio and boxing exercises like sparring and hitting the punching bag.
Eventually, they can challenge each another inside the ring.
Granny Constance Gubane says boxing is therapeutic and she has been telling all her friends to try it out.
“I tell other grannies that they should come to the gym, because it is like a doctor itself. We have High Blood Pressure; some others have Diabetes and others have done operations. But here they are alive and able to walk while even if they have done operations. They used to walk with walking sticks, but today they are able to walk without their walking sticks. Personally, I feel young; I feel like I am 16, but my age is 80,” she said.
Boxing trainer Nqobile Khumalo says the grannies started out by doing aerobics as part of a special programme introduced at the gym five years ago for the elderly. Then they tried boxing and they were hooked.
“We were doing fitness and also the grannies were interested to do fitness, but they saw the gloves and then they just tried them on and from there they never stopped,” he said.
Members at the gym have become close friends – something that has helped many of them deal with the loneliness and isolation that often comes with old age.
Germina Maluleka, 76, joined the gym in 2012 when she moved to Cosmo City after selling her house to raise bail for her son. She was also recently diagnosed with cancer.
Boxing, she says, has given her new hope for the future.
“The gym has helped me through my illness. When I was starting out I had a problem with my feet. I used to have swollen feet. Since going to the gym I do not have the problem anymore.”
Their training also helps in self defense.
They have also inspired younger people to get serious about fitness from an early age.