Little Lucas made history by Ron Jacson
Lucas Matseke probably never weighed more than 47 kg for any fight but he has a special place in SA boxing history.
The former national flyweight champion, nicknamed Lukey Baby, was the first SA black to beat a white opponent in an amateur bout. It happened in Bulawayo in 1961 when he won on points against Gert van Jaarsveldt.
Matseke had qualified for inclusion in a ten-man team of black SA boxers who were taken to Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, by Frank Braun, president of the SA Amateur Boxing Association.
The youngster – he was born in Daveyton in what is now Ekurhuleni on May 5 1940 – was also a late inclusion in a sevenmember team that went to the United States in 1963 to compete in a tournament in Utica, New Y ork.
Four whites and three blacks were chosen but it took a R200 donation from a Benoni factory owner, Maurice Abkin, to enable Matseke to go abroad. The others in the team that represented South Africa at the National American Athletic Union championships were bantamweight Ricky Knoesen, lightweight Alwyn Botha, light-welterweight Harry Finlay, welterweight Benjamin Dlamini, light-middleweight Nathan Ngubane and Piet Human, a middleweight.
Finlay won a gold medal and Matseke beat Howard Smith of Florida to take gold in his division, becoming the first black SA amateur to win an international championship.
In previous tournaments, the winners included Fidel La Barba (1924), Lou Salica (1932) and Jackie Wilson (1936) who later won world titles in professional boxing, competing in the flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight divisions respectively.
On his return, Matseke, turned professional and fought out of Daveyton. In his first fight, on August 1 1964, he beat Frank Sekgaolelo on points over six rounds at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto. The stadium was built in 1959 and cost the equivalent of R75 000. It held 75 000 spectators and was the home of the Johannesburg Bantu Football Association.
There were no minimumweight and junior flyweight divisions at the time and Matseke fought as a flyweight; almost always at a weight disadvantage.
In his second professional fight he stopped Caswell Moroe in five rounds and in only his third fight, on February 6 1965, he stopped Jake Mareka in the eighth at the kwaThema Civic Hall in Springs to win the vacant Transvaal flyweight title for black boxers. He retained the title against Andrew Nkwentsha and outpointed Stanford Luvuno in a non-title fight to finish a successful 1965.
On February 5 the next year, at the Orlando Stadium, he outpointed Abe Matabane over 12 rounds to claim the SA flyweight title for blacks in only his sixth professional fight. He conceded 4.5 kg to the champion.
Matseke retained the title in his first defence by beating Michael Ngcongo. But after outpointing Sekgaolelo in a return match, he suffered his first defeat as a professional when Steve Khotle beat him on points over ten rounds. He fought Khotle in a return match at the Bochabela Arena in Bloemfontein on March 13 1967 and lost the title on an eleventh-round technical knockout.
He never regained his early form and in his next fight was outpointed by Johannes Sithebe over six rounds. Sithebe later won the SA flyweight title for blacks and fought in 91 professional bouts.
In 1968, Matseke won only one of three fights and the next year he beat Jacob Mokotong but lost to Chris Dlamini, who later won the SA flyweight and bantamweight titles.
His last fight was on July 12 that year when he drew over four rounds with William Sefele to finish with a professional record of 10-5-2, with 4 wins inside the distance. Soon after that, on October 3 1969, he was nearly killed in accident at a business in Benoni where he worked as a driver and store assistant.
He was working in a storeroom when a crate weighing 97 kg fell from about 3 metres above him. It landed on him, severely injuring his right shoulder and breaking one of ribs. He also suffered head and neck injuries and never boxed again.
When he was last heard of he was still living in Daveyton.