Boxing is an art like no other, requiring hours of diligence and practice to master. It is an attuned dance that takes dedication beyond what most can muster. South Africa has had a colourful history in the boxing arena and was directly impacted by the negative realities of apartheid. This did not stop the champions and throughout our history heroes have been made along the way. 

South Africa’s Notable Boxing Heroes

Corrie Sanders was a champion that almost never was. Considering retirement after defeat by Hasim Rahman in 2000, he chose to persist and rose to success with his win against Wladimir Klitschko some four years later. He walked away from that fight becoming known for having one of the most powerful punches in South African Boxing history.

Thulani Malinga, also known as sugar boy, was a renowned super middleweight champion and is memorable for the caliber of opponents that he fought. He fought with skill and determination and was impressive in the ring with his opponents.

Laurie Stevens was both a lightweight and welterweight champion in his prime. He won gold in the Los Angeles 1932 Olympics shortly after winning silver at the British Empire Games.

Willie Toweel is also worth a notable mention as a champion in four weight divisions and as a boxer who won an Olympic bronze in 1970.

Dingaan Thobela had a boxing career that spanned 20 years and was a two-weight world champion. His wins were spectacular, as were his defeats, coming up against opponents such as Mikkel Kessler and Lucian Bute.

Vuyani Bungu took the unbeaten championship away from opponent Kennedy McKinney in 1994. After 13 successful defences, Vuyani decided to relinquish his belt in favour of the featherweight divisions. Despite his best attempts, they sadly did not pay off in his efforts to win a world belt when he lost to Naseem Hamed towards the end of his career.

Gerrie Coetzee was South Africa’s first heavyweight champion in 1983. In his third attempt to win the WBA belt, he finally did so by defeating Michael Dokes in a championship fight.

For 22 years Jacob Matlala was a flyweight and lightweight champion. Jacob claimed the WBU title in his final fight and reasoned his retirement to the fact that there were no other smaller fighters to fight, and that he had indeed fought all of them.

Vic Toweel was a bantamweight and became South Africa’s first world champion. Jimmy Carruthers dethroned him of his title in 1952 and he then went on to retire from boxing a short two years thereafter at the age of 26. He was also a featherweight national champion during his time.

Brian Mitchel was a super featherweight champion during apartheid. Brian won both the WBA and IBF belts and made 12 successful defences. Brian Mitchel later retired as champion but remained in the industry as a manager and a trainer, and went on to assist Cassius Baloyi to win a world title.

For more information and memorabilia about these and other South African Boxing Champions, be sure to contact African Ring for more information.

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