When Asemahle Sentile was young his father called him “Softie”. To make his father proud, he joined a boxing club - the same club where his older brother was a member. Today Sentile is among the best young boxers in the country.
Last week he was named as one of only two boxers from the Western Cape to make the South African National Boxing Organisation’s (Sanabo) elite squad for the World Olympic Qualifiers. The squad was selected following trials held in Durban in December. They are set to attend a training camp which will help determine the Sanabo team. The final team will represent South Africa at the qualifiers scheduled to take place in Paris, France.
“Every boy would want to make his dad proud,” the BA degree student in psychology at UWC said. “And having seen how proud my father was, how he would react when my brother’s coach used to tell him how a boxing tournament had gone, I decided to follow suit.”
After he joined the club in his neighbourhood of Town Two in Khayelitsha, Sentile won his first bout, and was named the boxer of the tournament just in his second match. He never looked back, and since 2009 Sentile has been a Western Cape champion in several categories, and currently holds the title in the Under 57kg.
It was based on these impressive achievements that the Western Cape Boxing Organisation entrusted Sentile and three other boxers with representing the province at the Sanabo trials in December, despite the fact there was no boxing last year (due to COVID-19) or training camp to prepare.
“Last year was very difficult for many of us as students because we are not used to e-learning. But we had to adapt. And I was busy trying to adapt to that and the coach (Ginger Mapasa) was pushing me to prepare for the trials too.”
Sentile had to train hard at the UWC Gym, at Khayelitsha Boxing Academy and with pro boxers in Cape Town to prepare for the trials. That paid off at the event in Dundee as he won the first two bouts against opponents from the Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal before losing the final match to a boxer from Gauteng. “The organisers felt that both of us had potential to be in the national team, so we were both selected for the trials where our character will be tested further.”
Sentile credits UWC for his further development in both his academics and sport.
“I remember when I was at high school, when our coach’s motto was, ‘Guys, let’s use boxing to educate ourselves’. I almost signed a professional contract during my gap year in 2015 because I was training with pro boxers and getting offers that were difficult to refuse. But I knew that from a young age our coach was against turning professional because you would not get the opportunity to get funding at university.”
The coach would often use Phumlani Nkqetho, another popular boxer on campus, as an example. “Phumlani is actually the one who encouraged me to apply at UWC. Coming to campus was not even a dream for me until Phumlani told me that he is here and that means it is possible for me, too.”
Sentile received a sports bursary for his studies, and said he has learnt a lot of professional and personal lessons on campus. “Part of what I’m doing is BA majoring in psychology, and it is all about mind. Boxing is a chess game, it’s a mind game. And boxing taught me how to resolve conflicts, how to distance myself and how to be a better human being.”
Sentile’s squad selection has put him on the verge of realising his dream of representing the country.
“This means a lot for me. If 2020 was a mess this was a blessing. For most people like me last year was a disaster - until that moment when I had to go there and fight. It’s one of my dreams to go and compete in France. I think I have everything I need to make a success of it.”