Shorty Smook dies at 79 - by Ron Jackson
Shorty Smook, who fought as a professional
in the 1950s and became a prominent
trainer, has died at the age of 79.
He passed away at the Germiston Hospital on August 14 after suffering a heart attack.
He was born Robert James Smook in
Arlington in the Free State on May 20,
1932. His parents later moved to Germiston, where he was introduced to boxing at the East Rand Engineering Amateur Boxing Club. His first trainer was Cyril Carroll.
Smook was given the nickname “Shorty” as a youngster. He grew to a reasonable height but the name stuck.
He was an outstanding amateur. At the age of 12 was the Transvaal and SA junior welterweight champion and in 1951, as a senior, he became the first champion in the newly created junior middleweight division. In 1950 he won the middleweight title.
He turned professional in 1952 and won his first few four-rounders. However, the next year he lost on points over ten rounds to future SA middleweight champion Jimmy Elliot in a closely contested bout in Port Elizabeth.
He was also beaten by two other SA middleweight champions, Eddie Thomas and Henry Speedie.
After retiring from the ring, Smook became a respected trainer. SA lightweight champion Rolly Xipu and national bantamweight champion Fransie Badenhorst were among those he coached.
In December 1986, well-known referee Len Hunt brought Smook to my house in Edenvale. He could hardly believe his eyes when I showed him a poster advertising an amateur tournament in Germiston in 1946 with his picture on it, alongside those of Vic Toweel and Dawie Marais.
Smook, a tool and die maker until he retired, will be remembered as an honest and humble man.