Jaguar’s headstand to drop weight - by Ron Jackson

There once was a soccer player who became a boxer who stood on his head to beat the scale and went on to fight in over 100 professional bouts. That is part of the story of a man known as Blue Jaguar.

He was Anthony Morodi, who fought for 14 years before finishing with a record of 96-25-3 and 32 knockouts.

Trainer Theo Mthembu moulded him into a triple national champion and he became one of the few SA fighters to reach a century of professional bouts.

Born on the farm Potloodspruit near Lydenburg on April 9, 1943, Morodi will always be remembered as the fighter who stood on his head to make the weight before a title fight. It happened on March 4, 1972, when he was scheduled to defend his SA lightweight title against Moses Mthembu at Curries Fountain in Durban.

He was over the limit at the morning’s weigh-in and Theo Mthembu calmly told him to stand on his head while a couple of camp members massaged his legs. After a few minutes of massaging, Morodi got back on the scale. This time, he was within the limit and he went on to retain his title when he knocked out the challenger in the eleventh round.

Theo Mthembu, who was a sportswriter for the Golden City Post, made contact with Morodi while watching him play soccer for Mofolo Dynamos against Kliptown Rangers in 1958. The young centre forward impressed Mthembu with his speed and agility, and after the match Mthembu asked him to come to his boxing club for a workout.

Morodi arrived the next day and it turned out to be the beginning of a partnership that lasted for more than 20 years.

In 1963, Morodi won the Johannesburg and District and Transvaal amateur featherweight titles, but was beaten in the final of the SA championships. The next year he again won the Johannesburg and District and Transvaal featherweight titles before joining the professional ranks on December 5. His first fight ended in a second-round stoppage win over Amos Nkosi.

Morodi won his first professional belt in October 1966 when he outpointed Mohamed Patel for the vacant Transvaal featherweight title.

After an unbeaten string of eleven fights, he went on to win the SA bantamweight title with a 12-round points decision over Caswell Juqula at the Orlando Stadium in December 1967.

Morodi retained the bantamweight title against John Mthimkulu and Rex Ngcongwane, stopping both in the twelfth round.

In October 1968, he lost to future WBA bantamweight champion Arnold Taylor on points over six rounds in Maseru.

Because of weight problems, he relinquished the bantamweight title and moved up to lightweight.

He won the Transvaal title when he stopped Eric Mahlo in the ninth round and after successful defences against Victor Tshabalala and Eric Mahlo he scored an outstanding tenround points win over Commonwealth lightweight champion Percy Hales of Jamaica.

On November 15, 1969, Morodi won the newly created SA junior lightweight title when he outpointed Richard Borias over 12 rounds. Only three months later he captured the SA lightweight title, winning on points against one of the legends of the SA ring, Enoch (Schoolboy) Nhlapo, a 91-fight veteran at that stage.

Morodi then defeated Roland Parker from the Philippines and Shole Mokoena (to retain the SA junior lightweight title) as well as Joe Zwane, Baby Cassius, Bobby Lee from the US and Philip Sibeko to finish a successful 1970.

The possibility of a title fight against WBC featherweight champion Johnny Famechon of France fell through when Famechon lost the title to Mexican Vincente Saldivar. As a consequence, Morodi and Mthembu left for Australia.

He lost on points twice to Johnny O’Brien, a former Commonwealth featherweight champion, but outpointed Toro George of New Zealand, the Commonwealth featherweight champion, in a non-title fight. Morodi also beat Manny Santos and Michele Vitale in Melbourne and then travelled to Mexico to face Fermin Soto in Mexico City in May 1971.

Soto was just too big and strong for him and he was knocked in the ninth round; his first defeat inside the distance.

The tough little fighter lost only five fights inside the distance. In one of these, he was stopped in the seventh round by Pat Hlabagane when he suffered a bad cut on his forehead. His only other stoppage losses were against Nkosana (Happyboy) Mgxaji in June 1974 when challenging for the SA junior lightweight title, and to Andries Steyn and Peet Bothma at the end of his career.

By 1973, Morodi was past his peak and he lost both his national titles. Norman (Pangaman) Sekgapane beat him for the SA lightweight title and Mgxaji outpointed him to take the junior lightweight crown.

However, Morodi still had enough left to score an outstanding victory over Jim Watt of Scotland in October 1974. Watt went on to win the WBC lightweight title in April 1979.

Morodi took part in nine SA title fights in three divisions and he was once ranked Number 10 in the world in the lightweight division by The Ring magazine in the 1970s.