“Life was a bit hard. I used to fight a lot, just for fun,” explains Lukholo “I was having more role models that were gangsters. Guys that were driving those nice cars, so I thought that was the life for me.”

As a teenager, Lukholo frequently saw gangs and drug dealers operating around his neighbourhood and imagined that would be his future one day. Hillbrow, in Johannesburg, was a tough place to grow up. Crime was rife, homes were overcrowded, and unemployment was high. He found it hard to stay out of trouble.

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Lukholo, now 25, was always interested in sport and dreamed of joining a rugby or football club. But his family didn’t have enough money to buy him the right shoes, or cover his transport costs to and from practice. So, in the absence of anything useful to do with his time, he frequently got into fights with local kids or gangs.

“One thing I missed in life, and no-one told me, was that you can be well known, and you can be popular, by just doing good things…”

A teacher could see he was heading down the wrong path and suggested that instead of street-fighting, Lukholo should try out boxing, which is when a friend introduced him to Fight with Insight.

Lukholo says the project, in particular a coach named Luke, saved his life – that as soon as he came through the doors, he received a warm and respectful welcome, and could soon imagine a different, more hopeful, future for himself.

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“I started turning my life around, I stopped chilling with the people I did before because I used to smoke, I used to drink and I used to party a lot – I used to come straight from school and go to a party in my school uniform.”

“When I came to Fight with Insight, I was taught a lot of things by coach Luke who is just an amazing person.... he’s been my role model... If it wasn’t for him, I definitely would have been in jail or dead by now.”

Boxing is the hook that draws children and young people to Fight with Insight, and creates the opportunity for further support – physically, emotionally, and academically. Around 40% of the children that come to the programme are dealing with a form of homelessness, but at the gym they find a safe space with trusted and caring adults who can support them.

Over the years, Lukholo became a boxer and then went on to become a coach at Fight with Insight, training the next generation of kids and acting as their positive role model. He loves this new role and how his life is now:

“Fight with Insight focuses more on growing you as a whole, not just growing you as a boxer only. We are also teaching other kids how to better themselves.”

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“I’m still a boxer and a coach at the same time... I want to box and make the gym proud because it took me from nothing. Now I’m someone else.”

“I’m a role model to the kids and they look up to me. I train them, I make sure when I go out that I consider myself well. I’m always on point because it’s easy for a kid to learn something bad, but for them to learn something good is hardSo you have to put more effort into doing something good.”

“Fight with Insight has changed my life in a way that I never imagined my life would be. I imagined my life as a gangster. But now Fight with Insight has given me a chance at being a better person and being a better man.”

Photos by Simz/Comic Relief

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