Lovemore Ndou learnt to box at 14, after he was repeatedly ejected from soccer training for being aggressive towards other players.
A security guard at the training grounds saw the young Ndou's transgressions and, escorting him out of the grounds, suggested he give boxing a try.
Ndou was angry then. He lived in a hut in Musina, South Africa, with his six siblings and parents. The home was tiny and some days there was no food. He was offered the lesser education reserved for black South Africans under apartheid-era "Bantu" legislation.
Boxing, he soon saw, could reverse all those disadvantages.
"It changed me as a person," Mr Ndou said.
"I became a patient person. I learnt to control my anger. You need to be patient in boxing because if you fight with anger you make a lot of mistakes.
"Boxing was my ticket to education. I knew it was the only way to get out. Through boxing I was able to move out of South Africa in 1996. And through boxing I was able to pay my own tuition."
Ndou, a three-time world boxing champion in two weight divisions, graduated from the University of Wollongong yesterday with a masters of law; having already collected degrees in communications and psychology, and a graduate diploma in legal studies, since coming to Australia.
The father-of-three became a criminal and family lawyer with Rockdale firm Bazzi Lawyers earlier this year.
He said his graduation was time to think of the man who had most inspired him, Nelson Mandela, and to take a jab at the stereotypes surrounding the boxing world.
"People see boxers as boofheads. I just wanted to prove to everyone that as boxers we can be intelligent people," he said.
Ndou, now of Casula, near Liverpool, dreams of returning to South Africa to enter politics, continuing the country's betterment in the spirit of his idol.
"People said to us it was impossible to have a democratic South Africa and Mandela proved everybody wrong," he said.
"To be honest, I would love to run for the presidency in South Africa."