Obituaries

Terry Pettifer Passes On by Ron Jackson

Well-known boxing writer Terry Pettifer died at the Baragwanath Hospital near Johannesburg on November 21. He was 59. Pettifer was born in Johannesburg on August 3, 1951 and lived in the southern suburbs all his life.

He was a bottle store manager for many years before joining the Golden Gloves Promotions group as publicist.

Pettifer lived for boxing and even named his daughter Dempsine after Jack Dempsey, whom he regarded as the greatest fighter of all time.

His son was named Driscoll after “Peerless” Jim Driscoll, a Welsh featherweight who fought from 1901 to 1919.

Pettifer’s first article was published in the SA Knockout magazine in 1975. Over the years, he contributed to various newspapers and magazines such as Boxing Beat, Boxing Express, Boxing World and African Ring .

He also self-published three books, No Punches Pulled, Trumpets and Drumbeats
and The Naked Square.

Of all the people I have met in the sport of boxing, Terry was the only one who maintained a constant love affair with the game, irrespective of scandals and the proliferation of organisations.

He was, indeed, “The man who loves the game”.

Former boxing commentator and Boxing World editor Bert Blewett said of Pettifer: “Scientists predict that some time in the 21st century we will carry micro chips to help us communicate and remember. Well, Terry Pettifer has beaten them to the punch. The man’s memory bank is simply astonishing and his knowledge of boxing truly remarkable.”

Smiler van Rensburg dies by Ron Jackson

Former SA and British Empire champion Johnny ‘Smiler’ van Rensburg died at the age of 78 in Roodepoort on October 28.

Known as the boxer who always smiled in the ring, Van Rensburg was a brilliant fighter, at his best during the late 1950s. He died at the Flora Clinic in Roodepoort after a short illness.

Van Rensburg held the distinction of being the only SA boxer to win two British Empire titles, in the lightweight and welterweight divisions, in the days when an Empire title was highly regarded.

He was one of the most successful SA amateurs, losing only three of 140 fights, the first two as a junior against Kewpie Wilson and Bennie Nieuwenhuizen. He beat both in return fights. His third loss was at the 1952 Olympic Games.

Van Rensburg won senior SA titles at bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight and light-welterweight in 1949, 1950, 1951 and 1952.

At the age of 17 he won the bantamweight gold medal at the 1954 Empire Games in Auckland, New Zealand.

One of several poor decisions at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki resulted in him losing his first bout, on points to Argentina’s Americo Bonetti.

Van Rensburg fought Joe Lucy for the vacant Empire lightweight title at the Wembley Stadium in Johannesburg in February 1955. Weighing in at only 60 kg, the South African outpunched, outpointed and outlasted the southpaw British champion over 15 rounds. The victory resulted in him becoming the first South African to be awarded the Willie Corner belt.

He made successful defences of his SA and Empire lightweight titles against Louis Klopper, Roy Louw and Willie Toweel.

In June 1956, he lost his titles to Toweel, who had been a teammate at the Helsinki Olympics. It was the second fight of their five-bout series.

Van Rensburg moved up a division in September 1957 to beat Billy Lotter, a future SA heavyweight champion, on a tenth-round stoppage for the vacant SA welterweight title.

In January 1958 he regained the lightweight title when he stopped Sampie Pretorius in a clash for the vacant title, becoming the holder of two national crowns.

In his next fight, on May 17, he became the first and only South African to win two Empire championships when he outpointed George Barnes of Australia in Salisbury, Rhodesia, to take the welterweight title.

Van Rensburg lost his Empire welterweight title to Barnes in a return match in Sydney on October 13.

He was stopped in the 13th round after being well ahead on points. It later emerged that he had been confined to bed with influenza and should never have fought.

In 1960, Van Rensburg campaigned in Britain, but with little success, winning against Ronnie Rush, Terry Gill and Billy Kelly and losing to Tony Smith, Boswell St Louis and Guy Gracia.

His last fight was in Rome on October 1, 1960, when he took on the future Italian lightweight champion Giordano Campari. He retired with a record of 32 wins, 13 losses and three draws.

Smiler was a good friend of mine and I made regular visits to the retirement village in Roodepoort where he lived. We always enjoyed a cup of tea and chatted about “the good old days”.

Former champ Pikoli dies

Former South African and Cape Province bantamweight champion Leslie Pikoli has died in Port Elizabeth. Pikoli made his professional debut in May 1970 in Mdantsane, near East London, where he beat Andile Tywabi on points over four rounds.

He won the vacant Cape Province title in July 1976 when he defeated Reuben Matewu on points over ten rounds. He then won the SA bantamweight title for black boxers when he outpointed Jacob Diraditsile in September 1978.

On February 3, 1979, Pikoli fought Peter Mathebula for the vacant SA Supreme bantamweight title. He was knocked out in the eighth round; the only loss inside the distance of his career.

He had previously lost on points to Mathebula, who won the WBA flyweight title in December 1980.

In his last fight, seven months later, Pikoli was outpointed by Daluxolo Tyekana over eight rounds. He retired with a record of 14 wins, 10 losses and no knockouts.

Pikoli was a clever boxer and most of his losses came against fighters who won SA titles. Among the national champions he fought were Johannes Sithebe, Israel Khonkhobe, Victor Mpiyakhe, Joe Ngidi, Sipho Mange, Chris Dlamini and Mzukisi Skweyiya.

After retiring from the ring, Pikoli trained young fighters and served as an administrator.

Pohl dies after 24 years in a coma

Eppie Pohl who was knocked out on June 30, 1986 at an amateur boxing tournament in Pretoria passed away on October 31 at the Life Health Midmed-hospital in Middelburg, Mpumlanga after being in a coma for more than 24 years.

Edmund Pohl was only 18-years old and boxed for the SA Defence Force and had received his boxing colours for Northern Transvaal.

It was after his fight with Gary Ballard that he collapsed as he went to his corner and never regained consciousness.

Right up until his death his mother visited him daily in hospital and later when he was moved to a care home in Middelburg in 1999. At the time of his death he only weighed 20kg.