The gentleman fighter

Meet Lovemore Ndou - a three time world boxing champion turned lawyer

You can’t help but smile when you meet him. Lovemore by name, love more by nature.

He greets us with the warmth and hospitality of a long lost friend, inviting us into his stylishly decorated office in his legal practice, Lovemore Lawyers, in Sydney’s South. There’s an image of his hero, Nelson Mandela smiling down over us, complemented by a visual feast of photos and memorabilia from his decorated boxing career.

UOW law alumnus Lovemore Ndou has made it his life’s mission to make the world a better place, taking on many pro-bono clients, fulfilling his passion to advocate for justice.

When we step outside, he turns heads as we walk down Rockdale’s main street dressed in a dazzling grey checked fitted three-piece suit, complete with a shiny blue striped tie. The local shopkeepers all know him and smile and nod in acknowledgment as we pass. It is a world away from the violent neighbourhood of his childhood.

Lovemore Ndou standing out on the street

The early years

Growing up in South Africa during apartheid, Ndou speaks of the struggles he experienced. Life was never going to be easy being a person of colour, with racism running rife in the country.

“We were treated as savages in our own country. We could not even vote. We were banned from certain areas, for example we could not walk into certain restaurants or parks, and you could not go to the beach. It was really bad. In fact even our living conditions were so bad,” he recalls.

It was this poor treatment that set the fire in his belly alight. He remembers the anger he felt from a very young age.

“When you are treated as a sub-species and you live surrounded by bad conditions, I was very angry about the whole apartheid system, I was angry about coming from a poor family, so I was angry about a lot of things. I was very conscious about what was happening.”

And his anger was justified. At just 13 years old, Ndou experienced possibly the most traumatic life event, which continues to haunt him to this day.

“My 12 year old friend and I joined a protest and he got shot, he died in my arms. That was sad and I still carry those memories with me.”

Adding to his emotional scars, earlier in his childhood, he experienced serious political unrest after his family moved to Zimbabwe so he could get a better education. The civil war between the black political parties made for extremely dangerous living conditions and once again, he witnessed things no young child should ever have to see.

“Abel Muzorewa had just taken over from Ian Smith (as Prime Minister) but there was ongoing black on black violence between Mugabe’s party, Nkomo’s party and Muzorewa’s party.

“I recall during one night Robert Mugabe’s guerrillas came by and started attacking the people. They killed the local Chief, and my father almost got killed. So for the first time I saw a dead body and I was only eight years of age,” he shares.

As he progressed into his teenage years, life did not get any easier. It was standard practise to join a gang and carry knives and guns, in Ndou’s case, mainly for self-protection.

“As a teenager I had so many guns and I’m blessed that I never got to use any of those guns, particularly considering I was so volatile and angry as a young kid. I did hang around with some of the gang members but eventually I was smart enough to realise that this was not right, that if I didn’t change my ways, I would die young or end up in jail. So instead I focused on sports.”

But even when attempting to get his life on the right path, the odds remained stacked against him, he became the victim of one injustice after another.

Ndou recalled at the age of 16 a young white woman took a liking to him at a time the government disallowed mixed relations. Her father got wind of her interest, reported it to the authorities who he says trumped up false charges against him.

“The good thing was the girl turned around and said she was going to go public and tell everybody that wasn’t the truth. So eventually they decided to lock me up for 90 days in custody with no charges.”

The trouble didn’t end there. He was dragged before a magistrate under more false allegations of stealing candy from a supermarket and sentenced to six cuts. A sentence unheard of for a juvenile stealing candy. He was later taken to the police station where he was badly beaten.

“They kept referring to me as a kaffir which is a very, very derogatory term, to a point where I got angry so I retaliated with some strong language.

“That was the biggest mistake I made because they almost killed me after that. They started kicking me, they chipped my front tooth, they broke my left arm and then they set a dog on me that almost bit off my eye. People often see the scar on my eye and think it’s from boxing.

“I ended up in hospital and I recall when I was recovering I was thinking this is wrong, this is not justice. That is when I decided that one day I was going to become a lawyer or a political activist and fight for justice.”

Turning the fight around

Ndou’s boxing career was initially fuelled by the anger he carried from a young age.

After trying his hand at soccer and being red-carded multiple times for knocking kids out cold on the field during fights, a security guard who escorted him off the field suggested he try boxing.

With nothing to lose, Ndou was in the gym the next day with this security guard, who turned out to be a boxer and boxing trainer. He remembers the security guard telling him the first thing they needed to address was his anger levels.

“I thought why? This is fighting, you need to be angry to fight. But I was wrong because boxing is scientific. Boxing is like playing a game of chess. You need to have a clear mind when you are boxing.

“He got me sparring with bigger boys and I had to learn the hard way, and every time I was getting angry I was getting beat up. Eventually I started listening and I realised each time I stayed calm I was performing well, I would counter punch and I would box well.

“But that changed me as a person not just as a boxer. It turned me into this calm, collected person that I am today and personally I believe that if it wasn’t for boxing I would be dead today or locked up in jail.”  

An international boxing champion

From a young age, Ndou firmly believed he was destined for boxing greatness. He would tell his family that one day they would watch him on TV fighting in Las Vegas.

“They used to laugh at me. I proved them wrong, they did end up watching me on TV. I wanted to be a world champion and for me, it wasn’t just fighting, for me it was fighting for my family, I needed a better future for my children. I knew through boxing I could set myself up financially.

“But I always thought about life after boxing as well and it was through my boxing earnings that I was able to educate myself.”

Channelling this strong belief, hard work and determination, Ndou became a three-time world champion in two weight classes, this success, he says, was fuelled by the extreme life he had lived and his ability to survive against all odds.

“Some of the things that I witnessed sort of desensitised me to a point to where I didn’t really care much about my life. When I stepped into the ring I didn’t care whether I died in the ring, I didn’t care if I got hurt. I was there to fight so I would have to prepare myself mentally as well.

“It’s funny because one of things I used to do each time I stepped into the ring was I would go to the corner, and I would kneel down and pray. I would ask God to protect me and protect my opponent, but allow me to whoop him,” he laughingly recalls.

Lovemore Ndou posing with his title belt

The drive towards education and justice

With the atrocities of his childhood experiences running hot through his veins, Ndou had his sights set on becoming educated and seeking justice, to represent those without a voice.

His first instinct was to study journalism which would give him a channel to expose the corruption in South Africa, but after a nudge from one of his lecturers to consider becoming a lawyer, his focus changed.

Determined to absorb maximum legal knowledge, Ndou has six degrees to his name. He completed his undergraduate studies in both law and communication, obtained his Graduate Diploma of Law Practise, completed his Master in Criminal Prosecution at UOW and went on to do a Master in Family Law and Master in Human Rights and Policy.

His hunger for studying is insatiable. Ndou is currently completing another Master’s in Policy and Political Science and hopes to do his PhD at UOW to propel him into a political career.

“My subject is based on the jury system and if it was reintroduced into South Africa, would it work. Some people say no,” he says. “The jury system in South Africa only lasted up until 1969. They stopped it because they thought it was only a jury for white people. Black people could not be members of the jury and white people were getting away with murder. But because of racial issues in South Africa and educational discrepancies, some people feel that if it was to be reintroduced it is not going to work.”

His passion for justice and equality in South Africa is palpable. His lifelong political idol Nelson Mandela’s actions have inspired him no end, and he intends to carry on his legacy in South Africa’s political arena, with a mission to stamp out the ongoing corruption and create better living conditions for the poor.

“I believe I could make a big change in South Africa. I am very concerned about the current state of the country. All that great work that Mandela did is going down the drain. South Africa has been a democratic state since 1994. But 26 years later you still have people living in shacks, you still have people using the bucket sanitation system, people don’t have running water, and children still go to bed with an empty stomach.

“The educational system in South Africa still rates below some of the poorest countries in Africa. Why? Because of corruption. I always tell people the leaders in South Africa are so corrupt and they are so open about it you would think that would create a position for a Minister for Corruption,” he adds.

“They are a law onto themselves, they don’t answer to anybody. That needs to change and there is not a good enough law in South Africa so that needs to change. And I believe I have got what it takes to make those changes in South Africa,” Ndou affirms.

There is no mistaking this strong-willed, intelligent and determined man has many gifts. He has the tenacity of a lion to win in the boxing ring or law court and the heart of a lamb full of compassion for humanity.

His humble nature and softly spoken voice draw you in. His story is so powerful you feel your throat close up and eyes swell with emotion. His desire to support those less fortunate and restore justice for the people in his homeland is incredibly selfless.

It’s clear the key to his success is more than his inimitable drive, it is underpinned by love, kindness and a commitment to give back.

“When I do things I don’t just want to do them half way. When I became a boxer I didn’t want to just be the local amateur champion I wanted to become the world champion. And when I became the world champion I didn’t want to just win one world title, I wanted three world titles.

“When I became a lawyer, I didn’t just want to be a lawyer, I wanted to have my own law firm. And part of that reason is because I do a lot of pro-bono work, in particular with Indigenous people. For me, it’s giving back to the community.”

This remarkable life has recently been documented in his inspiring autobiography, Tough Love: The Amazing True Story of a Boxing World Champion turned Lawyer.

Lovemore Ndou
Master of Laws (Criminal Prosecution), 2013