Johannesburg - Outside the ring, he is a dedicated family man who becomes a mean boxer with a penchant for inflicting pain on his opponents inside the square jungle.
Meeting Gideon “Hardcore” Buthelezi during a training session in Southdale, a suburb west of Johannesburg, reflects a caring husband and father figure whose heart is close to three important people in his life – wife Mpho, daughter Precious (7) and son Njabulo (2).
Since the schools closed for the winter holidays, Buthelezi and his family have been travelling 74km almost daily from their home in Boipatong, Vanderbijlpark, south of Johannesburg, to the gym where he keeps in shape for his upcoming fight.
The 30-year-old fighter will put his International Boxing Organisation (IBO) super-flyweight title on the line against Filipino Ryan Rey Ponteras at the International Convention Centre in East London on July 28.
Inside a small gym called Fantastic, situated a few blocks away from a busy shopping mall, Buthelezi’s three-member fan club yells at him, spurring him on to give it his all. He responds by pushing himself at the punching bag and skipping ropes in preparation for his fight.
As he shadow boxes, one can’t help but see the sweat dripping from a scar on the side of his head – the result of a taxi accident in Boipatong 15 years ago.
Stopping momentarily to thank his wife and the young ones for being so supportive during an intense workout, Hardcore, who is trained by Elias Tshabalala, says his upcoming bout is crucial.
“Making a successful defence against Ponteras will mean a lot to me. It has been promised that I’ll feature on the bill of a world title fight in the US in September, so I have to win my next fight at all costs.”
He said he would dedicate his win to his family, which is “extremely supportive” of his fistic career.
Hardcore, who is one of the most enterprising southpaws in the country, knows nothing about the man he will be facing.
“I haven’t heard a word mentioned about his strengths or weaknesses, but I’m going to knock him out.”
He is looking forward to surpassing Ponteras and then later making his mark in front of an American audience by winning – if the September clash materialises.
Hardcore’s face lights up as he says he is also waiting with bated breath to step into the ring against his friend Moruti “Babyface” Mthalane to prove who the country’s best super-flyweight pugilist is.
The nontitle bout that fans are dying to see has been mooted by Golden Gloves Promotions.
“Moruti and I are friends, but the whole country wants us to fight and prove who is the best in the division,” says Buthelezi.
But, for now, Hardcore wants nothing more than victory over Ponteras.