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It’s difficult to miss newly recruited boxer Neo (Mpho Sebeng) when he’s dancing around the boxing ring in sports telenovela Ring of Lies (2016-2018, S1-2 are on Showmax). His jabs are perfectly aimed. He bobs and weaves like a young Mike Tyson. And his opponents always hit the canvas during his bouts, which is why national champion Kabelo (Bohang Moeko) wants Neo out of their fighting club. He thinks that the newbie is about to steal his spotlight – and Kabelo isn’t entirely wrong.

Neo has a huge crush on Kabelo’s innocent girlfriend Sli (Dineo Nchabeleng).

“Kabelo feels threatened,” says Bohang. “When we first meet the boxers, Kabelo has a lot going for him: he is adored by fans and his relationship with Sli is great, until she develops a connection with Neo,” he adds.

But with all the effort that Kabelo has put into his boxing career, he won’t stand back and watch from the sidelines while Neo steals everything that he’s worked for. “Kabelo also has genuine feelings for Sli and he doesn’t want anyone to take that away,” he adds. The fear of coming in second pushes Kabelo into a dark place. He’s coming for Neo with everything he has. But who said that Neo isn’t ready? The fight is on!

Ring of Lies Season 1 on Showmax

Stealing the thunder

Boxing is Neo’s way of life. He eats, breathes and lives the sport. In fact, it’s all he thinks about… until he sets his eyes on Sli.

Every time they’re together, he falls deeper in love with her despite the fact that she has a boyfriend. Not that he doesn’t respect her relationship with Kabelo, but he is driven by his emotions and feelings for Sli.

“With Neo in the picture, Kabelo and Sli’s romance quickly crumbles,” says Bohang. “She has morals, she’s honest and she’s head-focused much like Neo. Kabelo is on the opposite end as he is destructive, having grown up on the streets after his mother abandoned him when he was much younger,” he adds.

Kabelo is holding onto Sli not just because there’s another man trying to get her attention, but because she’s the perfect trophy girlfriend and that looks good on paper: her father Mandla (Masoja Msiza), who’s a retired boxer, is Kabelo and Neo’s trainer. He took Kabelo in when he was alone without hope or a family. He cleaned up Kabelo and shaped him into the potentially great boxer that he is today.

“Although Kabelo loves Sli, he isn’t in the relationship for the right reasons. They’re on different paths.”

So Neo might just be what she needs: someone who loves her for who she is, not how she makes him look.

Below the belt

After some thought, Sli realises that Kabelo might not be the right guy for her as he lies about his whereabouts, he lies about what he’s doing and while she’s she doesn’t know it yet, he is cheating on her with one of his fans.

She’s going to ditch him for Neo, but they don’t get the fairytale ending that they’re hoping for. Their parents try to keep them apart by sending Sli to a music school in KwaZulu-Natal and for a very sinister reason. Neo’s mother Masindi (Florence Masebe) reveals that she had an affair with Mandla about 18 years ago, so Mandla could be Neo’s father, which can only mean that Neo and Sli are half siblings.

“It’s a whirlwind romance from the onset,” says Dineo. “They go through a lot in a short space of time, like trying to figure out their feelings and learning about their lineage. It’s going to be an emotional battle,” she adds. And with Kabelo out of the picture, Sli won’t have anyone to run to.

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