Photo by: Mahala Strohfeldt
Brad Hardman, 34, Bundjalung, Boxing Trainer & Kobie Duncan, 17, Kamilaroi, Boxer and Rapper
Those who know Kobie Duncan well are effusive in their praise for him. The impressive young boxer and rapper, and now mentor to other young men, says life was a struggle from an early age. But, within the space of just six months, he’s managed to turn his life around.
By the time he was 12 years old, Kobie had already started experimenting with marijuana and ecstasy and soon found himself selling drugs to fund his increasing habit. It was the beginning of a spiral out of control that saw him getting arrested and hospitalised
“I was arrested at 16 for searching cars, it was mostly just easy money. I started doing it with my mates and I was on a curfew for a bit,” says Kobie. “I was also arrested for trespassing when I went with one of my mates to a motel and jumped into the pool.”
“I had another incident where I took about seven pills in one night and ended up in hospital. That was a real wake-up call. My mate who’d done the same didn’t come out 100 per cent and I think that could have been me.”
Kodie admits that boxing saved him.
“Before, I’d just be sitting around in my room, sleeping, smoking pot, up all night and sleeping all the next day. Now that I’m training, I’m glad to be getting out of the house,” he says.
He has started competing in boxing competitions, and writes and performs his own rap songs. Recently, his work with the WEAVE Justice Reinvestment Campaign for Aboriginal Young People saw him perform for the Governor General.
“Growing up, it was just me, mum and my little sister,” Kobie recalls. “I was in Year Seven when I started doing pot, cigarettes and ecstasy. I started selling just to get more drugs. I just felt I needed to escape from everything.”
Kodie admits that serious family issues along with not having met his father until he was 12 all had an impact. He says it was the thought of becoming a better role model for his siblings and not adding to his mum’s constant worry that finally brought him to a turning point.
“I was doing nothing with my life; I wasn’t a really good role model for my brother and younger sister. I thought moving away might help but I just went more downhill, drinking and taking drugs, life was hectic.”
“I got to the stage where I was sick of how I was living. I decided that I had to do something with my life and I had to be a role model for my family. I started boxing six months ago and it’s turned my life around.”
For those who knew Kobie back then, including his boxing trainer and mentor Brad Hardman, the change has been nothing short of a miracle.”
Brad, a former professional rugby player, is also mentor to other young men. He knows the struggle, having battled his own demons, and it is these that help him to relate so well to the young men he works with.”
“When I was 15, I was partying with some mates and there were five of us that jumped into a car. We were travelling at 200km an hour when we hit a telephone pole that split the car in two,” Brad says. “One of my mates died and my leg got ripped off in the impact. My hips were fractured and I had to learn to walk with a prosthesis.”
“I’d been getting into a bit of trouble, drinking and fights. It took me a long time to recover from the accident and I started drinking again. One day, I got a call from the legendary boxing trainer Johnny Lewis and he asked me to do some training with him. I’d been a boxing fan since I was a kid and to get that phone call was pretty big. I started training against former world champions and really dedicating myself to getting fitter.”
“I go back to where I used to live and it’s the same people doing the same things. That’s what I try to tell the young boys, train hard and discipline yourself. It’s all about putting your heart and soul into it.
“I think about how different my life could have been. I’ve had the opportunity to do so much. Instead of being stuck in the same old things, I’d rather get out there and enjoy my life when I can. It’s hard trying to change your life but you can do it if there’s help and support. There are speed bumps left, right and centre but it’s worth it.”