Sandra Almeida is frank about the risks involved in being a boxer.

The 32-year-old admits that each time she steps in to the ring to face an opponent, she is aware that she may not leave the ring alive.

“Death is something I have to be realistic about,” says Almeida.

As the first South African female boxer to turn professional in 2007 she knew exactly what she signed up for. “It’s a dangerous sport. It is a fact we must deal with if we choose to pursue it.”

Recently light welterweight boxer Phindile Mwelase died after being knocked out in a fight against Liz Butler in Pretoria.

Mwelase was the first female boxer in South Africa to die as a result of punishment in the ring, but Almeida was not surprised.

“What happened to Phindile was a shock. I am pretty sure her opponent is even more devastated.

“My boss always reminds me about the seriousness of boxing and ensures I am well protected. He watches sparring sessions closely and if he feels I am getting hurt too much he will call it a day.”

Almeida says a boxer needs to be aware of the risks.

“I need to trust in myself to get out of there safely. I also need to know when to throw in the white towel if I am in serious trouble.”

It is fear that drives her. “You learn to deal with that feeling. One could say fear is merely suppressed momentarily to be able to execute one’s game plan successfully.

“The worst injuries I’ve had have all been during training.”

Her worst injury during a professional fight was a bloody nose when she fought Noni Thenge.

Almeida, who lives in Gonubie in East London, hopes the Mwelase incident does not discourage other women from boxing.

“If you want to box you want to box and not even the fear of death will take that out of your heart.”

She says that if Mwelase was just like her, she would have died doing what she loved.