Perhaps the biggest surprise of Grant Fourie’s 23-bout career is that he’s had a boxing career at all.
Six years ago he was struck down by glandular fever, a debilitating sickness that brings on extreme fatigue. For a boxer, that’s like fighting with one arm.
“Damn well knocked me out,” he said. “It messed with my boxing totally and just got worse and worse.”
Somehow he fought on, but the upward trajectory of his career – 10 wins in his first 11 fights – was halted. It started with a crushing defeat to Jason Bedeman and more or less continued thereafter.
From an exciting contender, Fourie slipped into the twilight world of the journeyman. Some fights were won, some were lost.
He slipped off the radar. But gradually Fourie got his moxie back. He took 2011 off entirely and sought treatment for his illness. The fever still lingers, but he has learned how to control it. The moment his system feels rundown, he stops training and puts his feet up. It’s all he can do.
The encouraging news is that he’s feeling great, which is just as well because next week he challenges for the South African championship for the first time. For an honest-to-goodness battler like Fourie, it’s due reward for the tough times.
“I’ve had one of my best camps. No flu, nothing. Just good, solid training.”
As luck would have it, his opponent next week is an old friend, Warren Joubert. The pair once shared a gym at HotBox, but Fourie later joined Manny Fernandes and is now with Harold Volbrecht, whose gym is a few minutes down the road from where Fourie lives in Primrose.
“Friendship aside, this is business,” said a determined Fourie (15-7-1, 10 KOs). “I’m a true professional. This is it, everything is on the line.”
Apart from sorting out his glandular fever, Fourie says the other turning point in his career was moving up to junior-welterweight two years ago. “I should have done so years ago,” he said. “I lost a couple of close fights before then, often a consequence of boiling down to lightweight. Now I walk around at my right weight; I’m a natural junior-welter.”
Given that neither he nor Joubert is a big hitter, Fourie’s sense that the best boxing skill will prevail is probably bang on the mark.
“I usually put my boxing aside and like a brawl, but this will be decided on who settles down more and boxes. He and [trainer] Colin Nathan will try and take me into the later rounds and put on the pressure. It’s fine, I’ll be ready. I’ve been waiting for years . . . this was meant to happen long ago. Now, it’s finally here.”
Win or lose, Fourie has already won his biggest battle by just getting this far.
He finally deserves some luck.