It’s 1997 and 27-year-old boxer Anton Gilmore is staring at the punch bag. He hasn’t trained in six months after opting for retirement.
Now, four weeks later, he faces the undefeated super bantamweight, Cassius Baloyi, for the World Boxing Union title. This is second time Gilmore will be fighting for the WBU title after he turned professional in 1991.
“I lost 8kg in four weeks and had a pulse of 36 at weigh-in,” he recalled.
A professional athlete has a resting heart rate of about 40. Gilmore had a successful paint business, but for R50 000 he was willing to come out of retirement. It was going to be his 26th fight and the first time two South Africans boxers would compete for the international accolade in the super bantamweight division.
Gilmore was sweating, he would be called up soon, but his coach was putting him through his paces — he bobbed, weaved and faked a hook.
He could hear the rumble on the other side of the wall at the Wembley Indoor Stadium. The crowd was excited. Then the announcers started introducing the fight.
Gilmore, nicknamed “the Irish Terrier”, was going up against the undefeated Cassius “Hitman” Baloyi. Gilmore limbered up and headed out to the ring.
It was a gruelling fight and it went the full 12 rounds. “I was the one who staggered Baloyi. I broke his jaw with a left hook in the 10th round,” remembered Gilmore. Baloyi kept fighting despite the injury. The judges’ decision was unanimous —“Hitman” was the winner.
Gilmore wouldn’t fight professionally again for a decade, briefly coming out of retirement at the age of 38 — a family man with a wife and two children — to fight Thompson Mokwana. He won. — As told to Gemma Ritchie