Age is no barrier for JJ Chauke as he eyes glory 11 years after turning pro
Despite long spells out of the ring, he is eyeing flyweight belt
Jackson Chauke has been around so long he can remember beating his next opponent's older brother and cousin in the amateurs.
The 33-year-old takes on Thabang Ramagole, 28, for the vacant SA flyweight title in an all-Gauteng contest at the Orient Theatre in East London this afternoon.
Chauke, a 2006 Commonwealth Games silver medallist and 2008 Olympian, fought Ramagole's cousin several times. Chauke lost the first two - the second was the first knockout loss of his career - but then he won the rest of their contests handily.
"The cousin, I gave him a hell of a beating and then he stopped," Chauke said with a grin. "I fought his older brother once and I beat him."
Lehlohonolo Ramagole fought for the same belt Chauke and his younger sibling are contesting, getting stopped in three rounds by then champion Moruti Mthalane.
And Chauke is confident he will script a similar ending. "I'm going to take him where he's never been before. His boxing has not yet matured."
Ramagole made his debut in 2012 and has notched up 15 wins (10 KOs), five losses and a draw.
Chauke, who turned professional nearly four years earlier, has a record of 16-1-1 (12 KOs). In terms of rounds it's almost dead even, with Chauke on 84 and Ramagole 88.
One potential key difference is that Ramagole has never been 12 rounds, while Chauke has been there once, albeit in his only defeat to date, while challenging for the same belt against Lwandile Sityatha in 2013.
"That loss was a learning curve. I haven't looked back since."
Trainer Damien Durandt is confident that Chauke will be the gym's 99th SA champion, building on the legacy of his late father Nick.
"Chauke's wanted this a long time. When it came the first time in his career he didn't appreciate it as much as he appreciates it now. He knows the value in the SA title. It can change his life."
STILL A CONTENDER
Chauke has endured some long stretches of inactivity when fights fell through or offers simply didn't come his way.
He's had two lengthy spells on the sidelines, for 21 months from 2015 to 2017 and for more than 25 months from 2013 to 2015.
But through it all Chauke, also a personal instructor at Durandt's Boxing in Linksfield, never gave up hope.
"My love for boxing is very strong. Even though there was a scarcity of fights, I was most of the time in the gym. I've never thought of quitting."
It started on the streets of Tembisa to counter bullies.
Called Jackson junior at home to distinguish him from his great-grandfather Jackson, Chauke's name was shortened to JJ.
But some kids on the streets would tease him by altering it to jeje, township slang for meat.
There were fisticuffs on the streets and on the soccer field, where he played striker.
"Most of the time the fighting I did was when I played soccer," he said, explaining how a bad tackle or a losing opponent refusing to pay up their bet could ignite a brawl.
That he can still make the 50.8kg flyweight limit is testament to his dedication.
The bill also features upstart Nhlanhla Tyirha, who takes on fading star Nkosinathi Joyi. Tyirha has just four professional bouts under his belt and won the SA junior-flyweight title in his last outing in December.
In the main bout, Chauke's stablemate Athenkosi Dumezweni takes on Jonas Sultan of the Philippines for the vacant WBC Silver junior-bantamweight title.
The tournament is live on SuperSport 13 from 2pm.
FROM TEMBISA TO BEIJING 2008
Chauke is one of a few talented fighters to hail from Tembisa, alongside Ditau Molefyane, Kaizer Mabuza and Abbey Mnisi
VICTORY DOWN UNDER
Chauke and Bongani Mwelase won medals at Melbourne 2006. Since then, only one SA boxer has won a Commonwealth Games medal
Chauke was the only SA boxer at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he lost in the opening round to Anvar Yunusov of Tajikistan, who reached the quarterfinals