Ncita: First to win IBF Title by Ron Jackson

Welcome Ncita will always be part of South African boxing history after becoming the first South African to win an International Boxing Federation world title. The classy little fighter became South Africa’s eighth world champion when he won the junior featherweight crown in March 1990, by widely outscoring Frenchman Fabrice Benichou, despite the odds being stacked against him.

Only two days before his crack at the title, Ncita’s trainer, Mzimase Mnguni, who had been at Welcome’s side throughout his undefeated career, was forced to return home from Israel after his business premises were gutted by rioters in the Transkei’s strife torn township of Mdantsane.

If this was not enough, Ncita was threatened by anonymous telephone callers warning him that if he ignored their “advice”, his house would be burnt to the ground. But the determined battler dismissed the threats and stepped through the ropes regardless.

And in spite of these complications, the little South African fought brilliantly against Benichou to bring home the title and join Brian Mitchell as the country’s second reining world champion.

Born in October, 1965, in East London, he was initially more interested in soccer than boxing. He attended a private Catholic school as a junior and later Nyameko High, where he featured as a star forward in the senior soccer team. Even today he is an avid follower of Kaiser Chiefs, one of South Africa’s top professional sides. He had a bright future in the game and it was only the influence of his late father and Mzimase Mnguni, both of whom were convinced the youngster had the makings of a fighter, that Ncita was lured away from the football field to the roped square.

Under the guidance of Mnguni, Ncita built up an outstanding amateur record, eventually turning to the professional ranks in March 1984 with a four round points win over Vuyani Mngxaso.

After nine fights, all wins, he successfully challenged for his first title, stopping the experienced Frazer Ndzandze to take the Cape flyweight title. Refusing to rest on his laurels he then sent shockwaves through the South African boxing world in his next fight by completely outfoxing cagey old pro Johannes Miya over twelve rounds to take the national flyweight crown. Still only 20, Ncita’s future held the promise of great things to come.

The fast punching and scientifically schooled Ncita went on to defend the title three times, bringing him the coveted “Old Buck” championship belt, before moving up to a higher division.

After conquering all meaningful opposition at home, Ncita now turned his attention to things international and during 1988 racked up impressive victories over imported Lincoln Salcedo, Juan Rodriguez and Jaime Olvera. Moving up another weight class in 1989, this time campaigning as a junior featherweight, he defeated Julio Cardona, Miguel Paqueno and Vidal Telles.

On the strength of these victories the IBF ranked Ncita as number one contender for Benichou’s crown.

After winning the title the softly spoken South African, the third youngest in a family of eight children grew in stature and spent time at the famous Kronk Gymnasium in Detroit.

Welcome, who fought under the umbrella of the Golden Gloves Promotions organisation, showed the benefit of the time spent in the United States of America with his first two defences being fairly easy when he dismissed Ramon Cruz and Geraldo Lopez in seven and eight rounds respectively.

However, his third defence against Colombia’s Sugar Bay Rojas was highly controversial with Ncita well below par in retaining his title on a disputed 12 round point’s decision. The Colombian’s handlers appealed against the decision and a rematch was ordered by the IBF. Before the rematch Ncita squeezed in a successful defence against American Hurley Snead and despite suffering a bunged up eye, was most impressive in retaining his title.

Welcome once again created history when he defended his title for the fifth time in the rematch against Sugar Baby Rojas at Sun City, as he became the first South African to take part in an IBF title contest in Southern Africa.

In a bruising encounter in the Sun City Superbowl on September 28, 1991, Ncita kept the crowd of 4000 on the edge of their seats as he retained his title in more convincing fashion than he did in their first controversial encounter in Italy.

Returning to Italy in April 1992 Ncita who was ranked at number two by The Ring magazine defended his title for the sixth time with a unanimous 12 round points decision over former WBA titlist Jesus Salud. From the fourth round the champion boxed with a swollen and partly closed left eye which was to give him problems in the future.

Ncita lost his title to 1988 Olympic gold medallist Kennedy McKinney in Sardinia on December 2, 1992 when he was knocked in the eleventh round. In the eleventh round Ncita landed a right and a hook and McKinney his face marked and right eye cut dropped to the canvas. After referee Steve Smoger’s mandatory count, McKinney began fighting back and then suddenly the challenger fired a straight right off the ropes that caught the South African flush on the jaw and he took the full count lying on his left side. At the time of the stoppage Ncita was ahead on all the judges’ scorecards.

Ncita took some time off after this devastating loss, before stopping Eddie Rangel in three rounds in October 1993 and Kenny Mitchell in two rounds in February 1994 and then tried to regain his title in a rematch with Kennedy McKinney in April 1994.

Ncita floored the champion in the fifth round but his eye began swelling in the sixth and was completely shut by the seventh as he lost on a majority point’s decision.

Welcome continued fighting but the spark had gone, winning his next six fights before challenging Hector Lizzaraga for the vacant IBF featherweight title. Ncita was never in the fight and was stopped in the tenth round.

After being inactive for more than nine months Ncita challenged former WBO featherweight champion Steve Robinson for his WBO Intercontinental featherweight belt at the Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane. In a blatant hometown decision the fight was declared a draw. Local journalist Mxolisi Ntushuca wrote “Steve Robinson retained his title by a whisker when the fight he should have won by a mile was declared a draw”.

This was Ncita’s last fight, but he has remained in boxing as a trainer and promoter.

Ncita had a brilliant career with forty wins, one draw and only three losses.