He’s young, flashy, talks a charm and can fight. Joshua Studdard is just four bouts into a pro career, but already he has made seasoned fans sit up and take note.
Still just 24, he’s already experienced many of the highs and lows of the fight game: frustration, disappointment, anger and elation. He’s a worldly-wise man, though, and isn’t backward in coming forward.
“My understanding is simple: I see myself as the future of the sport,” he says. “I’m here to make a difference.”
He campaigns in the flyweight division with hard fists and fierce determination. Indeed, his four fights have produced four knockouts. He doesn’t like to hang about.
Studdard has good genes. His father and grandfather were amateur boxers, but most notably his uncle was the late Cameron “Kangaroo” Adams, a rough and ready pro middleweight from the 1970s who fought hard and played hard.
In 1979, he and Bruce McIntyre waged a war that was named SA Fight of the Year.
Kangaroo subsequently got caught up in the mean streets of Joburg, was stabbed and later avenged his attackers by killing one of them. He was infamously hanged for the crime in the early 1980s.
It’s a shocking thing to happen to a family, but Studdard doesn’t let it define him. He says his uncle was a victim of circumstance: township life was hard, and often deadly, and arguments were frequently settled with fists and weapons. It wasn’t the right way, but it was the way of apartheid South Africa and Kangaroo got swept up in the madness.
“I’m grateful to come from such a family,” says his nephew, without regret. “It’s unfortunate how it ended for uncle Cameron. I wish I could have met him. People who speak rubbish about him never knew him. He was as much a victim as anyone. Only people of colour can understand what the townships were like under apartheid, where you had to fight to survive.”
Ironically, Studdard’s burgeoning career as a boxer has become a form of healing for the family. His mum was never able to talk about her late brother, but she now does, energised by the thrill of seeing her own son box. More than that, Studdard says that when he boxes it is one of the few times his whole family gets together. It’s clearly a matter of pride to him that he’s central to the gathering of the clan.
Studdard had a stop-start beginning to his career. He made his pro debut in 2012 under Bernie Pailman’s hand, but struggled to get action. He was treading water and growing frustrated. He lost focus and switched to studying towards becoming a paramedic.
All the while, his mum pestered him, warning him not to waste his boxing talent. Studdard would sulk and complain, but each time his mum sought to encourage him. She refused to accept that he was going to give up.
He switched trainers, joining Warren Hulley, but action was limited. He dabbled in his studies – he’s now doing a BCom degree in Marketing and busy interning for a medical company – and kept the boxing going, but only just.
“A lot of fights fell through and I became very frustrated,” he says. “All the time my mother told me not to give up hope.”
He also gained inspiration after a chat with boxing writer Bongani Magasela, who urged him on, telling him he had terrific talent and shouldn’t quit. The boxer took his words to heart.
“What the hell, let me go on,” said Studdard, who happily attracted the attention of Golden Gloves last year and cashed in with two fights. Lean and fit, he impressed with his movement and power.
“He’s a fantastic talent,” says promoter Jeff Ellis, who co-promoted the tournaments with Golden Gloves. “I see a lot of fighters. The special ones stand out, and Joshua is special.”
Despite growing up in a fighting family, Studdard says he grew up with no real boxing heroes. He was channelled into boxing upon the urging of his father, who was tired of Studdard being bullied.
“I was lighter-skinned with no scars, and good looking. I was an obvious target for the bullies,” says the boxer. “My father said I shouldn’t come crying to him, so he taught me the basics. I could look after myself and went on to have a handful of amateur fights too, but not many.”
Studdard is thrilled that he will be among the tyros to feature on the second installment of “Prospects at the Palace” on February 7.
The tournament is a great showcase for South Africa’s best emerging talent. Fists will fly and the action will be frenzied as youngsters eek to make their mark. Studdard is determined that when the fans go home, it is his name on their lips.
Given his skills and hunger to make a difference, the odds must be good.
Come and see for yourself.