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From Young Pluto to Hekkie Budler - by Ron Jackson

A Belgian poet and dramatist, Maurice Maeterlink, said the fist was the only
weapon originally adapted to the sensibilities, the resistance, and the offensive
and defensive structure of the body.

That is probably one of the reasons that few events match the exhilaration, tension and excitement of two gloved gladiators stepping into a boxing ring to
pit their strength, speed and stamina against each other.

One of South Africa’s most popular sports, boxing has the ability to stir the spirits of many people, male and female alike.

South African fighters have always excelled and have always had a large following.
They won many medals in amateur competitions and many a title in the professional version of the sport.

It began when the long forgotten history maker Young Pluto, who fought out
of Port Elizabeth and was also known as Joe Brown, challenged the legendary
George Dixon for the world featherweight title in New York on January 7,

Since then, South Africans have participated in 439 “world title” fights and
won 103 versions of world titles.

Being a contact sport with inherent dangers, SA professional boxing is governed
in terms of the Boxing Act (Act No.11 of 2001) and Boxing SA, which raises its own funds through grants, the licensing of tournaments, the issuing of licences, and sponsorships.

South Africa has also had many excellent, experienced promoters.

Promoting sport is a specialised business with considerable legal implications and obligations. But boxing has a special attraction for professional and businessmen with financial acumen and special qualities as entrepreneurs.

For the past number of years, the top SA promoters have been Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves Promotions and Branco Milenkovic of Branco Sports Promotions. They have staged many a world title fight.

Others who promote on a smaller scale are Mzi Mnguni, Reggie Hilmer, Pat Molefe, Siphato Handi, Jeff Ellis, Blacky Seou and André Kerr.

Modern boxing is plagued by a multitude of governing bodies. World champions
are crowned in up to 17 weight classes by eight organisations.

Among the four major governing bodies is the World Boxing Association, formerly
the National Boxing Association. It was established in 1921 and changed its name to the WBA in 1962.

The others are the World Boxing Council (formed in 1963), International Boxing Federation (formed in 1983) and World Boxing Organisation (formed in 1988).

A total of 64 South Africans have won 103 titles offered by these organisations.
Willie Smith became the first South African to claim a world title when, on October 6, 1927, he outpointed England’s Teddy Baldock to win the British version of the world bantamweight title.

In possibly the most notable achievement by an SA fighter, Vic Toweel outpointed
the Mexican-American Manuel Ortiz in Johannesburg on May 31, 1950 to win the undisputed bantamweight championship of the world.

To date, Toweel remains the only South African to be recognised as an undisputed universal world champion. All the other SA champions held only portions of a world title. It is a travesty of justice that Toweel has not been elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

One of the greatest fights in South Africa took place in Johannesburg on
November 3, 1973.

Arnold Taylor came back from several knockdowns to knock out Romeo Anaya
in the 14th round to win the WBA bantamweight title. At that time, the WBC
was the only other recognised world organisation.

Another historic night for SA boxing was December 13, 1980. That was when Peter Mathebula became the first black SA fighter to win a version of a world title when outpointed Tae Shik Kim of Korea to take the WBA flyweight title. The fight was held in Los Angles.


In September 1983, it was third time lucky for Gerrie Coetzee when he knocked out Michael Dokes to win the WBA heavyweight title.

And at Sun City in December 1984 Piet Crous became the WBA junior heavyweight champion when he outpointed Ossie Occasio.

Brian Mitchell won WBA junior lightweight title, also at Sun City, when he stopped Alfredo Layne. He later also won the IBF junior lightweight belt when he beat Tony Lopez in Sacremento.

Mitchell made a record twelve defences of the WBA belt and was the first South
African to be inducted into the International and World Boxing Hall of Fame.

Boxing in South Africa had been a recognised sport for 63 years when Welcome Ncita became the country’s eighth world champion. He won the IBF junior featherweight belt in March 1990. Sugar Malinga was the first South Africa to win
a WBC belt when he outpointed Nigel Benn in March 1996. He lost it to Vincenzo
Nardiello in his first defence but regained the title with a points victory over Robin Reid.

Dingaan Thobela, the only other South African to win a WBC belt, first won the WBO lightweight belt in September 1990. Ten years later, in September 2000, he came from behind to score a sensational knockout with only seven seconds left in the last round against Glenn Catley to win the WBC super middleweight belt.

In 1993, Ditau Molefyane became the first South African to win a World Boxing
Federation belt.

Other South Africans who have held WBF belts were Sugarboy Malinga (super middleweight), Wele Maqolo (mini flyweight) and Mike Bernardo (heavyweight).

When the Federation went out of business, their champions were “taken over”
by the World Boxing Foundation, which was considered a minor organisation.

SA boxers who have held Foundation belts are Samuel Malinga (junior welterweight), Zolani Marali (junior featherweight and junior lightweight), Simphiwe Nongqayi (junior bantamweight), Mlungisi Dlamini (lightweight),
Muvhuso Nedzanani (junior flyweight), Zolani Tete (flyweight), Oscar Chauke (junior featherweight), William Gare (super middleweight), Ludumo Galada (featherweight), Bongani Mwelase (welterweight and junior middleweight), Lubabalo Msuthu (bantamweight), Francois Botha (heavyweight) and Takalani Ndlovu (featherweight).

In 2009, a new organisation, also known as the World Boxing Federation, took over the World Boxing Foundation champions.

After Welcome Ncita had become the first South African to win an IBF belt Vuyani Bungu won the featherweight belt and made a record 13 defences.

Other SA fighters to win IBF belts are Mbulelo Botile (bantamweight and featherweight), Philip Holiday (lightweight), Francois Botha (heavyweight), Zolani Petelo (mini flyweight), Lehlohonolo Ledwaba (junior featherweight), Cassius Baloyi (junior lightweight, twice), Malcolm Klassen (junior lightweight, twice), Mzonke Fana (junior lightweight), Isaac Hlatshwayo (welterweight), Simphiwe Nongqayi (super flyweight), and Moruti Mthalane (flyweight).

When Gary Murray won the low-rent World Boxing Union welterweight belt in November 1995, it was the start of a seven-year period during which South Africans won another 19 WBU belts.

They were Sakhumzi Magxwalisa (super flyweight), Mzukisi Sikali (junior flyweight and junior bantamweight), Cassius Baloyi (junior featherweight and featherweight), Lehlohonolo Ledwaba (bantamweight), Peter Malinga (welterweight), Patrick Quka (bantamweight), Corrie Sanders (heavyweight), Jacob
Mofekeng (cruiserweight), Lindi Memani (strawweight), Masibulela Makepula junior flyweight), Sebastiaan Rothman (cruiserweight), Jacob Matlala (flyweight),
Jan Bergman (welterweight), Phillip Ndou (junior lightweight), Ruben Groenewald (middleweight), Gabula Vabaza (super flyweight) and Lehlohonolo Ledwaba (featherweight).

The WBU is hardly functioning these days.

Another one of the lesser organisations, the International Boxing Organisation,
took over from the WBU and SA fighters have won 27 IBO belts since Simon Ramoni took the super bantamweight belt in August 1998.

Other South Africans to win IBO belts: Mpush Makambi (middleweight), Zolile
Mbityi (flyweight and super flyweight), Peter Malinga (welterweight), Masibulela
Makepula (flyweight), Silence Mabuza (bantamweight, twice), Mhikiza Myekeni (junior flyweight), Cassius Baloyi (junior lightweight, twice), Mzukisi Sikali (flyweight), Sebastiaan Rothmann (cruiserweight), Lunga Ntontela (super flyweight), Zolani Marali (junior featherweight and junior lightweight), Vuyani Bungu (featherweight), Thomas Mashaba (junior featherweight and featherweight), Isaac Hlatshwayo (lightweight and welterweight), Takalani
Ndlovu (junior featherweight), Nkosinathi Joyi (strawweight), Simphiwe Vetyeka (bantamweight), Lovemore Ndou (welterweight), Mlungisi Dlamini (lightweight) and Hekkie Budler (junior flyweight).

Baby Jake Matlala won the International Boxing Association junior flyweight belt when he beat Michael Carbajal in July 1997.

November Ntshingila (featherweight) and Virgil Kalakoda (junior middleweight)
won International Boxing Council belts, which are also of hardly any value in world terms.

South Africans have won 32 belts from the major organisations (WBA, WBC,
WBO, IBF) – 18 of those from the IBF.

The WBA champions were Arnold Taylor, Peter Mathebula, Gerrie Coetzee, Piet Crous, Brian Mitchell and Dingaan Thobela.

The WBC champions were Sugarboy Malinga, twice, and Dingaan Thobela. South Africa’s WBO champions were Dingaan Thobela, Jacob Matlala, twice, Masibulela Makepula and Corrie Sanders.

IBF champions were Welcome Ncita, Brian Mitchell, Vuyani Bungu, Mbulelo Botile (bantam and feather), Phillip Holiday, Francois Botha, Zolani Petelo, Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, Cassius Baloyi (he won the junior lightweight belt twice), Lovemore Ndou, Mzonke Fana, Malcolm Klassen (he also won the junior lightweight belt twice), Isaac Hlatshwayo, Simphiwe Nongqayi and Moruti Mthalane.

The most recent SA “world” champions are Moruti Mthalane, who put on an
outstanding exhibition of scientific boxing to win the vacant IBF flyweight belt
on November 20, 2009 in scoring a comprehensive points victory over Mexican Julio Cesar Miranda and Hekkie Budler who outpointed Junanito Rubillar from the Philippines on February 27, 2010 to take the vacant IBO junior flyweight belt.

No fewer than 25 South Africans have won more than one belt but none of them can claim to have been an undisputed world champion.


Cassius Baloyi, six: WBU (November 15, 1996) junior featherweight; WBU (April 24, 1998) featherweight; IBO (April 19, 2002) junior lightweight; IBF (May 31, 2006) junior lightweight; IBO (February 3, 2007) junior lightweight; IBF (April 12, 2008), junior lightweight.

Jacob Matlala, four: WBO (May 15), 1993) flyweight; WBO (November 18, 1995) light flyweight; IBA (July 18, 1997) junior flyweight; WBU (February 17, 2001) junior flyweight.

Zolani Marali, four: IBO (July 11, 2003) junior featherweight; WB Foundation (September 8, 2006) junior featherweight; WB Foundation (November 2, 2007), junior lightweight; IBO (April 2, 2009) junior lightweight.

Thulane Sugarboy Malinga, three: WBC (March 2, 1996) super middleweight; WBC (December 19, 1997) super middleweight title; WBF (May 6, 1998) super middleweight.

Dingaan Thobela, three: WBO (September 22, 1990) lightweight; WBA (June 26, 1993) lightweight; WBC (September 1, 2000) super middleweight.

Masibulela “Hawk” Makepula, three: WBU (September 22, 1998) junior flyweight; WBO (February 10, 2000) junior flyweight; IBO (January 26, 2002) flyweight.

Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, three: WBU (November 17, 1996) bantamweight; IBF (May 29, 1999) junior featherweight; WBU (July 27, 2002) featherweight.

Mzukisi Sikali, three: WBU (November 8, 1996) junior flyweight; WBU (August
1, 1998) junior bantamweight; IBO (September 14, 2002) flyweight.

Isaac Hlatshwayo, three: IBO (August 31, 2005) lightweight; IBO (May 12, 2007), welterweight; IBF (August 1, 2009) welterweight.

Brian Mitchell, two: WBA (September 27, 1986) junior lightweight; IBF (September
13, 1991) junior lightweight.

Peter Malinga, two: WBU (July 30, 1997) welterweight; IBO (October 22, 1999) welterweight.

Mbulelo Botile, two: IBF (September 9, 1995) bantamweight; IBF (December 16, 2000) featherweight.

Sebastiaan Rothmann, two: WBU (September 24, 1999) cruiserweight; IBO (October 26, 2002) cruiserweight.

Corrie Sanders, two: WBU (November 15, 1997) heavyweight; WBO (March 8,
2003) heavyweight.

Vuyani Bungu, two: IBF (August 20, 1994) junior featherweight; IBO (February
6, 2004) featherweight.

Thomas Mashaba, two: IBO (May 22, 2004) junior featherweight; IBO (June
25, 2005) featherweight.

Silence Mabuza, two: IBO (March 2, 2002) bantamweight; IBO (May 12, 2007), bantamweight.

Zolile Mbityi, two: IBO (October 22, 1999) flyweight; IBO (May 31, 2008), IBO super flyweight.

Francois Botha, two: IBF (December 9, 1995) heavyweight; WB Foundation (February 6, 2009) heavyweight.

Takalani Ndlovu, two: IBO (November 4, 2005) junior featherweight; WB Foundation (March 20, 2009) featherweight.

Malcolm Klassen, two: IBF (November 4, 2006) junior lightweight; IBF (April 18, 2009) junior lightweight.

Lovemore Ndou, two: IBF (February 4, 2007) junior welterweight; IBO (July 11, 2009) welterweight.

Bongani Mwelase, two: WBF (Oct 10, 2008) welterweight; WBF (August 7, 2009) junior middleweight.

Simphiwe Nongqayi, two: WBF (Dec 15, 2006) junior bantamweight; IBF (September 15, 2009) super flyweight.

Mlungisi Dlamini, two: WBF (March 9, 2007) lightweight; IBO (Oct 31, 2009) lightweight.