You don’t understand, we coulda been contenders ...
If Budler and Mthalane are successful in their bids, SA could again boast three bona fide world champions
Three South African boxers have the potential to lift the sport in the nation.
Hekkie Budler is up first in Japan on Sunday when he challenges Ryoichi Taguchi for the IBF and WBA junior-flyweight crowns, as well as Ring magazine’s mantle as the best fighter in the 48.99kg division.
Next is his Hot Box gym stablemate Moruti Mthalane, who takes on Muhammad Waseem for the vacant IBF flyweight title on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s bill in Malaysia on July 15.
And thirdly Zolani Tete, holder of the WBO bantamweight title, has been named in a series of fight-offs that will go some way to unifying his division.If Budler and Mthalane are successful in their bids, South Africa will boast three bona fide world champions, which will be a welcome return to a time when multiple titleholders were a common feature in the 1990s (remember the time Vuyani Bungu, Mbulelo Botile and Phillip Holiday had IBF titles while “Baby” Jake Matlala owned the WBO crown?)
So we might get back to where we were 20-plus years ago. But does this mean SA boxing is really improving? The statistics say no.
From 1920 until 1960, South Africa won 19 Olympic medals and just two professional titles, courtesy of bantamweights Willie Smith and Vic Toweel.
Smith, the 1924 Olympic champion, won the British recognition of the world title in the paid ranks and Toweel, who didn’t win an Olympic medal in 1948, lifted the undisputed world bantamweight title in 1950.
With two Olympics cancelled because of World War 2, the country won 19 medals from nine Games.Since the world opened up to SA in the early 1990s, more than 70 South Africans have won professional world titles — many of them peripheral — but not a single pugilist has managed to win an Olympic medal. ‘ ’
At the seven Games from Barcelona 1992 to Rio 2016, South Africa didn’t even qualify 19 boxers in total. In all, 15 boxers represented the country at six Games (none was selected for Rio 2016) and between them they notched up a whole six victories.
Not a single boxer has won more than one fight at a single Games. Hawk Makepula (1996), Phillip Ndou (1996), Sybrand Botes (1996), Jeffrey Mathebula (2000), Danie Venter (2000) and Siphiwe Lusizi (2012) are the magnificent six who have achieved a victory at the Olympics.
Makepula, Ndou and Mathebula all went on to enjoy successful careers in the professional ranks, but imagine what might have been if South Africa was producing Olympic champions.
Amateur boxing at home is a mess, and the status of the professional fight game is nowhere near what it could be — there are too few good boxers and, as a result, there are insufficient decent promoters.
Actually, Tete and Mthalane don’t even have South African promoters! As for Budler, his opportunity was not organised by his regular promoter, Rodney Berman.
Fixing the amateurs would boost the professional game, but just how does one go about doing this? The R10-million government gave the amateur body a few years back doesn’t seem to have turned the ship around. So, in the absence of a plan, enjoy it while it lasts.