Johannesburg - Revealing the harsh, corrupted and all-consuming world of boxing, former WBU middleweight champion Ruben Groenewald offers a no-holds-barred account on his rise and fall in the boxing industry.
The former boxing champion had a meteoritic rise as a boxer, rising from a South African champion to briefly clinching the WBU world title, before watching it all crumble to pieces allegedly as a result of corruption within the industry.
He's since detailed all of this in his book 'Broken Dreams: The Untold Truth', a self-penned autobiography focusing on his time as a boxer.
In a sit down with Independent Media, Groenewald shares his life story from humble beginnings in the Ekurhuleni town of Germiston to his rise and fall as a professional boxer in England.
Early years as an amateur boxer
“I started boxing when I was 8 years old. It was my father’s idea that I start boxing… he came from a boxing family.
“I didn’t understand why he wanted me to box but when I got older, I realised that boxing saved my life.”
Groenewald soon showed an aptitude for the sport and within a few years, had his first taste of winning, clinching the amateur South African title not just once, but two times.
He followed this with a win at the All African Championships and soon, Groenewald seemed well on his way to conquering the Olympic Games.
This dream however came to a crashing end after an official allegedly had him barred from boxing for eight months, seemingly over his poor behaviour.
This resulted in him missing the Games and would be his first taste of the high-level corruption within the industry.
“[That's when I realised] there’s a lot of corruption in amateur boxing and a lot of problems,” he said.
Despite this setback, Groenewald was determined to succeed and soon set his sights on making it internationally.
Professional career in England
To achieve this ambitious goal, Groenewald, by then a professional, partnered with famed SA trainer Nick Durandt.
“I won my first professional title with him at All African title at Emperor’s Palace.
"I soon realised that I needed sponsorship because I was battling with money. You can’t have a job and box at a high-level."
It was then that Groenewald realised that opportunities were limited and he then decided to move to England.
“I [ had previously gone there] with Durandt and Thulani “Sugar Boy” Malinga to help Malinga prepare for an upcoming fight. I thought to myself, when we got back, I need to go to England.”
His time in England was off to a bumpy start, with Groenewald relating how he struggled to get on his feet during the first few weeks
His fortunes soon improved when he partnered with British manager Frank Maloney, now known as Kellie Maloney following a sex change, bagging a three year contract.
This partnership soon bore fruits as a mere 16 months later, Groenewald won the WBU middleweight title in a controversial match with English boxer Anthony Farnell.
“I wasn’t supposed to win that match because Farnell was the promoter’s favourite.
“Despite that, I knew that this was my destiny, this is what my whole life has been building up to.”
Groenewald’s victory was shortlived however, as a mere three months afterwards the promoter reportedly called for a rematch.
He then claimed he was manipulated into agreeing to a rematch, being lured in with the promise of more money.
A reluctant Groenewald agreed to the match but soon, the deal went sour as less money was offered.
“My manager then told me if i didn’t agree to the match, they’d strip me of my title. I was only 24, how was I to know they couldn’t do that.”
Groenewald then lost his title to Farnell and soon afterwards, was dropped by his management.
This was beginning of the end for Groenewald and despite numerous attempts to get back in the ring or appeal for the British Board of Control's assistance, his career came to an end.
"I then realised that boxing is a bad sport... there's a lot of corruption in boxing," he said.
Writing his book
After spending years in England, a despondent Groenewald then decided to come home and continued his studies, something he'd begun in England, going on to work as a personal trainer.
He then decided to share his experience in the boxing industry and the pitfalls that come with taking part in the sport.
"The book is mostly about boxing and the bumps along the way. Boxing saved me from a life of drugs.
"I also had to get my story out there, detailing how boxers are treated in foreigns country, especially in [countries like] Britain," he said.
Despite his harrowing experience as a boxer, Groenewald says he's happier now working as a trainer and managing a gym.
Sharing his future plans, Groenewald says he hopes to begin promoting boxing fights not regulated in any way.
"There'll be no money involved, if the boxers do well, there'll be money... but it's mostly for the love of the sport," he said.