Jan Kies who fought as a professional from 1969 to 1978 and won the South African middleweight title was one of South Africa’s most exciting middleweight fighters in his up and down career.
When old timers reminisce about big punchers in the middleweight division, they mention Eddie Thomas, Willie Ludick, Bruce McIntyre and even though he only won 21 of his 62 fights inside the distance, Elijah “Tap Tap” Makhathini.
Stories about his explosive left and from Kies’s southpaw stance began doing the rounds when he was still an amateur at the Hugenote Boxing Club in Brixton, Johannesburg, where Naas Botes was the trainer.
Kies, who was born on 18 January 1948, won the SA middleweight championship in 1969 and turned professional soon afterwards.
He won his first three professional fights inside the distance before coming up against Johnny Woods. The experienced former SA middleweight champion stopped him in the fifth round.
In February 1970, Kies knocked out Basie Cilliers in the fourth round and then won inside the distance against Michel Petit, Clive Cook and Dick Duffy; all from abroad. He gained revenge by stopping Woods in the seventh round of a return match for the vacant Transvaal middleweight title.
Andy Peace from England lasted less than three full rounds as Kies completed his activities in 1970.
Local critics were raving about his punching power and there were hardly any SA middleweights who would fight him. The promoters had to bring in opponents from abroad.
Kies won his next four fights before he was disqualified in the seventh round of a bout against former British middleweight champion Les McAteer. That left hand shot had McAteer down and writhing in pain, but referee Bob Winchester ruled it was a low blow; a decision Kies never agreed with.
Kies made no mistake in a return bout three months later. He stopped McAteer in the third.
JOSSELIN’S LAST FIGHT
Then, on 11 March 1972, he knocked out the experienced Frenchman Jean Josselin in 63 seconds. It was Josselin’s last fight, and he was well past his best.
Josselin had been in 88 previous fights, including a gruelling and bloody 15-rounder with Willie Ludick in August 1966. Ludick won on points in a bout that promoter Dave Levin advertised as the SA version of the world welterweight title.
Kies also stopped an Italian, Nicola Menchi, in the seventh round and beat British middleweight Harry Scott, a veteran of 75 fights, on points in a fine performance. But it took only one left hook to the body to send Scotland’s Don McMillan down, wincing in agony, in the third round.
However, Kies failed to move out of the way of the straight punches of Italian Domenico Tiberia and it nearly cost him in his next fight. He was down for a count of nine in the first round but got up to win on points over 10.
In an upset, Kies then lost on points over 12 rounds to a 21-year-old outsider, Domenic Germishuys, in a clash for the vacant SA middleweight title at the Goodwood Showgrounds in Cape Town in January 1973.
Kies was well beaten but there were reports that he had dropped almost 3 kg before the weigh-in.
Four months later in a return bout he outpointed Germishuys at the Ellis Park Tennis Stadium to win the title. Some observers felt he had lost some of the power in that left hand. They said he had looked pale at the weigh-in and was probably having trouble to make the middleweight limit.
After victories over Jan Cilliers and former SA welterweight champion Dave Rose, Kies fought Germishuys for the third time and stopped him in the seventh.
In March 1974 he knocked out Ireland’s Frank Young and three months later retained the SA title by beating Coert Fourie on points in Welkom.
MOVED UP AND KNOCKED OUT
After that he moved up to light-heavyweight to take on England’s Maxie Smith in a 10-rounder at the Portuguese Hall in Johannesburg.
Leonard Neill wrote in the Knockout magazine that “Smith sank his right hand into the mid-section … The wind just raced out of Kies, and the South African …. folded up, then uncoiled to flop face forward on to the canvas.”
Kies then joined trainer Andries Steyn Sr who, with promoter Eddie Hall, encouraged him to train harder and remain in the middleweight division.
He had only two fights in 1975, beating Germishuys again and losing on points to a classy American, David Love. In 1976 he got his career back on track with four wins inside the distance, including one over Germishuys.
HISTORIC FIGHT AGAINST MAKHATHINI
On 27 November 1976 he faced the SA “non-European” middleweight champion, Elijah “Tap Tap” Makhathini for the vacant SA “supreme” title.
It was a historic fight: the first for a South African championship in which the race of the boxers played no part. But a rather disappointing total of 6 000 spectators turned up for the tournament at the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg.
Kies began well, but Makhathini, also a southpaw, took control from the second round and knocked Kies down three times in the third round before referee Peter Lock stopped the fight.
In his next fight, Kies lost the SA “white” middleweight title when Doug Lumley stopped him in the 11th round. Kies immediately announced his retirement but returned in November 1977 to stop Gerrie Bodenstein in the fourth round and knock out Victor Ntloko in the first.
In 1978 he had three fights, losing to Makhathini (pts 8), Kid Power (tko 6) and Joseph Sishi (pts 8) before getting out for good. He finished with a record of 31-11, including 21 wins inside the distance.
Kies, an electrician by trade, ran his own business for a while before moving to Carletonville to work on the mines. Now retired, he lives in Krugersdorp.