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Names that Stuck - Terry Pettifer

The source of this essay was inspired by African Ring publisher Jeff Ellis, following a recent conversation we had at one of this writer’s favourite watering holes. In fact we were seated at the Chicken Basket in Glenvista, when Ellis reflected on the nicknames I’d given fighters over the years. Naturally not all my suggested nicknames have been adopted, but several were, and Ellis made a point of asking me to expound upon those monikers that stuck!

Going back to the mid-1990’s, transplanted Namibian Harry Simon captivated local audiences with the power and savagery of his performances and I duly dubbed him “The Terminator”. The nickname was subsequently adopted by the fighter himself, and though he later became embroiled in a series of out-ofthe-ring incidents which prematurely ‘terminated’ –pardon the pun- his career, Simon was indubitably one of the most impressive junior middleweights of the past two decades and his WBO junior middleweight title-winning effort over Ronald “Winky” Wright at the Carousel near Hammanskraal in 1998, gave Namibia it’s first ever boxing world
champion.

Another pugilist from the Nineties was Bernard Zwane, an ill-fated boxerpuncher
who starred in many of Knockout Promotions development shows. Free-lancing at the time, I decided to call Zwane the “Black Prince” and yet again the name was eagerly accepted by the boxer and his camp.

In the years that followed, the Pettifer pen characterized a number of South
African fighters in accordance with their looks styles and personal traits and in
specific instances my sobriquets became standard.

Amongst the boxers in question were the likes of Isaac “The Angel” Hlatshwayo (because of his almost angelic good looks), Takalani “The Panther” Ndlovu, Joshua “The Cobra” Kgoase, Richard “El Torro” Fernandes, Grant “The Fireball” Fourie and Jared “The Storm” Lovett. Jeffrey Mathebula “The Mongoose”

That colourful epithets have always been is part and parcel of professional boxing is a fact and immortals such as Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Jack Johnson, Jake La Motta, Kid Gavilan, Rocky Marciano, Roberto Duran and James. J.Corbett, were bestowed with lasting bynames like “The Brown Bomber”, “The Manassa Mauler”, “Lil Artha”, “The Bronx Bull”, “The Cuban Hawk”, “The Brockton Blockbuster”, “Hands of Stone” and “Gentleman Jim”, respectively.

Not all nicknames have been complimentary, however, and writers, both
here and abroad, have often felt compelled to attach far less inspirational
names to their subjects like, “The Blimp” (Mike Schutte), “Phaintin Phil” (Phil
Scott), “Satchel Feet” (Primo Carnera), “The Canvasback Kid” (Buddy Walker)
“Butterbean” (Eric Esch), “The weeping Lithuanian” (Jack Sharkey), “The Fighting
Fool” (Eddie Thomas), “The Worm” (Willie Monroe) and “Jumbo Jim” (Jimmy
Abbott).

South Africa’s former world heavyweight contender Kallie Knoetze earned the nickname “Die Bek” (The Mouth) because of his boisterous antics and if my
memory serves me correct, Pretoriabased sportswriter Geoff van Heerden
was the man who initially conceived that title.

National middleweight champion of the 1940’s Tiger Burns was labeled “The Fighting Postman” and although his championship reign was far from distinguished, Burns, whose real name was Dan Levene, was a fairly memorable
post-war performer.