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Brett Taylor Boxing Gentleman #2 - by Pete Moscardi

Brett Taylor’s earliest memories of his association with boxing are somewhat
poignant. The former South African junior welterweight champion recalls an incident when he was just six-years-old. “My Dad, Bernie was fighting professionally and was the South African featherweight champion. I would have loved to have seen him fight but my Mom would never let me watch him in action. But my dad and I had an arrangement whereby he would come home after defending his title and put his title belt in the dining room. When I woke up the next morning I would make a dash for the dining room first thing to inspect his new belt. But one night in September 1965 he came back without it and I was distraught to find it missing from its usual place. But worse was to come. When I crept into my parent’s bedroom to chat to him he was not there either. He was, in fact, lying in hospital with a broken jaw after having been stopped in seven rounds by Andries Steyn at the Durban City Hall. My Dad lost his title that night and it was
his last fight,” Brett recalls.

There exists an ironic twist to the tale of the belt – named the Alec Bozas belt.

Some five years ago Brett was notified that there was to be an auction at which
a collection of ‘boxiana’ collectors’ items were to go on sale – including the belt. “I attended this function and was delighted to see the belt in question, together with the gloves that Andries Steyn wore the night he stopped my dad. I purchased both the gloves and the belt and had them framed. I later took them over to England and presented them to my Dad - but he now insists that they should be in my
possession, so when I next go over I will “reclaim” them and they will occupy pride of place in my home,”

Brett says. Brett’s father started the St Patrick’s Boxing Club in Bellair, Durban after his retirement and Brett was a keen – if very under-age – member. “My dad was my entire inspiration throughout my amateur career – and much of my professional career – and he trained me until I got my Springbok colours in 1978. He influenced me in all the decisions I made – and often made the decisions for me,” Brett says.

Brett gives credit to his success in the amateur ring, saying that his father’s
training taught him to be a scientific boxer. “I never really shaped as a junior,
but I won my Springbok colours as a lightweight and I also won the national title at welterweight. I guess my claim to fame as an amateur was the two wins I had
over Brian Mitchell. The first was in the finals of the SA Defence Force championships in 1979 and the second win came in the finals of the South African championships in Pretoria later that year,” he says. It should be mentioned that today Brett and Brian are close friends and last year Brett accompanied Brian
to Canastota in the US when he was presented with his Hall of Fame Award.

Brett turned professional in 1981 after an amateur career which incorporated over 220 fights, annexing the Best Boxer Trophy in the South African championships. Making his pro debut in November that year, he won a hard-fought decision over Eric Rankeng at the Rand Stadium. “This was not your usual easy transition into the professional ranks. Rankeng was a tough fighter and I had to pull out the stops to get the win,” Brett recalls. He attributes his decision to turn professional to his cousin, the late Brian Baronet.

“It was Brian who inspired me to make this move. We both had a dream of
going to fight in the US – which is something we both eventually achieved. For
me this happened almost straight after I turned professional,” he says.

Brett started his professional career under the guidance of trainer Barney Croucamp, training at Croucamp’s Riebeck Boxing Club on the West Rand. He was managed at the time by Harley Hirshman who promoted under the banner of Punch Promotions. Recognising the talent in the youngster, Hirshman sent him over to Phoenix, Arizona where he found himself under the care of top US trainer, Gene Lewis. Lewis was no stranger to South Africa or South African fighters, having brought his junior-middleweight, Tyrone Rackley out here to fight Charlie Weir. Brett found himself training in elevated company, with Sugar Ray Leonard being one of the fighters who worked out in Gene Lewis’s gym.

“My second pro fight was in Phoenix against a tough customer called Charlie Evans. After four rounds the fight was called a draw, but soon after I had returned
to my dressing room I was informed that the decision had been changed and I was then declared the winner.” Brett did not have another fight in the US but spent time at the tough Kronk Gym where he got sparring against the top fighters of the day. On his return to South Africa Brett joined the Steyn camp, being trained by the late Oom Andries right up until his fight for the South African junior-welterweight title against the late Arthur Mayisela.

“I had earlier fought a draw with Arthur after a terrific fight at the Wembley Ice Rink in November 1982. He was an outstanding fighter, but I was confident going in as I had studied tapes of his fight for three months leading up to the event and my Dad had worked out a strategic plan to beat him,” Brett says. After an epic battle at the Crown Mines Entertainment Centre in February 1986 Brett was crowned the new South African junior-welterweight champion, having taken a well-earned decision over Mayisela, who was the outside favourite.

Although Brett credits this win as the highlight of his career, he claims his toughest opponent was Duke Moledi who beat him over eight rounds in a war at the Wembley Ice Rink in November 1983. “Boxing is all about styles, and Duke was a slick boxer with plenty of power. He had a big weight advantage over me that night as he came in at the welterweight limit and I tipped the scales as a junior-welterweight,” he explains.

Brett defended his title against Jeffrey Mankune at Sun City in June 1986 and retained the crown via a draw. But he came unstuck in his next defence when the lanky Phumzile Madikane outpointed him over 12 rounds at Johannesburg’s Portuguese Hall in October 1986 to take his title. “I got tired of the game after this and my heart went out of it after losing to Madikane,” Brett admits. Even a brief campaign in England did not revive his fire. Brett fought three drawn decisions after losing his title and ended his career with a points loss to Mickey Durvan in the West Midlands town of Solihull in November 1987.

“I was just having a bit of a ‘jol’ over there. I was managed by Charlie Breen who was a bit of a “character”. He liked a drink or two and before I fought Durvan I had had a night on the tiles with Breen and the rest of the boys in his stable. I was feeling a bit delicate and hung over and I had no idea I was in line to fight. The day before the fight Charlie called me and said: “You’re fighting Mickey Durvan tomorrow night.” I think I still had a few beers in my system when I got into the ring,” Brett says with a wry smile. Brett ended his career, with no regrets, with a record which reads 18-5-5. It is a record which does not do justice to his talent as a fighter.

There is one thing in Brett Taylor’s life that the former South African junior-welterweight champion can’t resist - and that is a challenge. He set himself a challenge to run Comrades 10 times and he has successfully done this. He also set
himself a challenge to compete in the formidable and gruelling Duzi 10 times –
and he has done this too. To summit Kilimanjaro was another challenge he set
himself – and this has been accomplished. Be sure that if Brett ever runs out of challenges he will invent his own.

Today Brett leads an active life and is well established in a digital bureau and
graphic solutions business. On the home front he is married to Nanie and the couple has two children – a daughter Cherrie (who gets married in May in New
Zealand) and a son, Byron. Brett’s Dad, Bernie, lives in England with his Norwegian born wife, Grete. The names of Brett and Bernie Taylor will long be remembered among South Africa’s boxing fraternity.