South Africa boxing is at its lowest ebb and this is illustrated by the fact the country has no world champions.
The neglect of amateurs reflects in the professional ranks. A country that once produced 16 IBF champions, 10 WBA holders, six WBO titlists, 20 champions from the WBU and 53 IBO champs now stands at two from the lesser recognised IBO.
This week marks 19 years since SA produced its second WBO champ, its first heavyweight holder, when Corrie Sanders won that title with a second-round stoppage of defending champion Wladimir Klitschko on March 3 2003.
It took SA 14 years to produce another WBO world champion when Zolani Tete was crowned while seated on a flight back home to East London from England where he had claimed that organisation’s interim bantamweight belt in 2017.
Vuyani Bungu still holds the record for the most defences of his world title, the IBF junior-featherweight title he defended 13 times. Moruti Mthalane looked on course to break it after the fourth defence of his IBF flyweight belt. Sadly, he was stripped in 2014 but regained the title in 2018. He lost it in his fourth defence in 2021.
Sowetan spoke to Dingaan Thobela (pictured right) – the last local fighter to win the most sought after WBC belt in 2000 – to find out what could be done to remedy the desperate situation.
“We are all aware that a lot is wrong here,” said Thobela. Asked if there will ever be fighters the calibre of Brian Mitchell, Jacob Matlala, Welcome Ncita, Zolani Petelo, Mbulelo Botile, Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, Hawk Makepula and Thobela, he said: “It will be a mammoth task. My take is that we as a country must go back to the basics, which is the reintroduction of schools sport. Catch them when they are still young. The amateur ranks must be given the deserved attention because that is the feeder to the professionals.
“Also, BSA [Boxing SA] must look into strengthening provincial participation, which will require the ratings and give status [to] provincial titles. You then have provincial champions being rated nationally and you know that each of those contenders is a potential SA champ.”
Thobela said BSA must be the one recommending locals fighters to world bodies for ratings.
“That must be informed by their consistency in defending the SA titles. Surely in a year SA will produce a champion from one of the top four most respected bodies. It will be better to produce at least one such champion from such bodies than not have one at all in a country that has so much talent.”