Sorry Hekkie, Brian Mitchell is the best SA boxer of all time
Wanna argue with me? Wanna fight?
Hekkie Budler has earned his spot among the pantheon of South Africa’s ring greats, although he himself is not prepared to argue about his position on the ladder.
“I’ll never rank myself,” Budler said on Tuesday after returning home from Japan with the WBA, IBF and Ring magazine junior-flyweight crowns. “I’ll leave that to other people.”
But the debate has raged on social media. Budler has now picked up six world titles — having previously held the WBA and IBO strawweight and IBO junior-flyweight mantles — which is more than any other South African boxer has managed to date.He is one of at least 13 South African trail-blazing pugilists, but who is the best of them all? First, here are the contenders, in rough chronological order:
Bantamweight Vic Toweel, SA’s only undisputed world champion.
Gerrie Coetzee, SA’s first world heavyweight champion. The Boksburg Bomber knocked out Michael Dokes for the WBA version of the crown to become just one of two champions in the division (albeit very briefly).
Brian Mitchell defended his WBA junior-lightweight crown 12 times, all of them abroad, before adding the IBF belt to his collection. He was also the first South African involved in a unification bout.
Welcome Ncita was the first South African to win an IBF title, in the junior-featherweight division. Seemed unstoppable until getting tagged in the penultimate round by Kennedy McKinney.
Dingaan “The Rose of Soweto” Thobela held the WBO and WBA lightweight titles separately before ballooning to super-middleweight and capturing the WBC crown.
Baby Jake Matlala was the first to win world titles at two divisions, taking the WBO flyweight and junior-flyweight belts. He also claimed the scalp of legendary Michael Carbajal, although the American was past his best.
Vuyani Bungu, also known as the Beast, took the IBF junior-featherweight title from undefeated Kennedy McKinney, the 1988 54kg Olympic gold medallist, and defended it 13 times, a South African record.
Thulani “Sugarboy” Malinga downed Nigel Benn to become SA’s first-ever WBC champion in 1996. Didn’t keep the belt long, but he regained the title in 1997.
Mbulelo Botile was the second after Matlala to win titles in two weight classes and the second after Thobela to skip at least one division in doing so, winning the IBF crowns at bantamweight and featherweight.
Cassius Baloyi won four world titles and was the first South African to win belts at three weight divisions, from junior-featherweight to junior-lightweight.
Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, Bungu’s successor as the IBF junior-featherweight champion, was the second South African to win world titles at three weights. A classy boxer whom many thought was robbed in his first contest against Cassius Baloyi.
And lastly Corrie Sanders flattened Wladimir Klitschko in two rounds in arguably the biggest ring upset by a South African. The Ukrainian was widely considered the heir apparent to Lennox Lewis at the time and he came back to dominate the division.
So where does Budler fit in on the list after his unanimous points victory over Ryoichi Taguchi? To be fair, one can make a proper assessment only after Budler hangs up his gloves one day because his future performances could increase or decrease his stocks.
But for the heck of it — or in this case, the Hekkie of it — let’s include the 30-year-old. We have come up with an all-time ranking list using our own specially devised objective formula whereby the 13 boxers are ranked according to seven different categories. Then the results are added together. (Disclaimer from our objectivity editor: If you don’t like our objective formula, then devise your own objective formula. Otherwise, please enjoy.)
Longevity (based on career wins, then draws):
Baby Jake Matlala - 53 wins, 13 losses, two draws
Brian Mitchell - 45-1-3
Sugarboy Malinga - 44-13
Corrie Sanders - 42-4
Dingaan Thobela - 40-14-2
Welcome Ncita - 40-3-1
Vuyani Bungu - 39-5
Cassius Baloyi - 37-8-1
Lehlohonolo Ledwaba - 36-6-1
Gerrie Coetzee - 33-6-1
Hekkie Budler - 32-3
Vic Toweel - 28-3-1
Mbulelo Botile - 27-4
Total world title bouts fought (considering only WBA, IBF, WBC and WBO, excluding fights for marginal organisations):
Vuyani Bungu - 15
Brian Mitchell - 14
Baby Jake Matlala - 10
Dingaan Thobela - 10
Welcome Ncita - 10
Mbulelo Botile - 9
Hekkie Budler - 7
Lehlohonolo Ledwaba - 7
Vic Toweel - 6
Sugarboy Malinga - 6
Cassius Baloyi - 6
Gerrie Coetzee - 4
Corrie Sanders - 2
World title fights won (including draws where the fighter retained the world title):
Brian Mitchell - 14/14
Vuyani Bungu - 14/15
Baby Jake Matlala - 8/10
Mbulelo Botile - 7/9
Welcome Ncita - 7/10
Hekkie Budler - 6/7
Lehlohonolo Ledwaba - 6/7
Dingaan Thobela - 5/10
Vic Toweel - 4/6
Cassius Baloyi - 3/6
Sugarboy Malinga - 2/6
Corrie Sanders - 1/2
Gerrie Coetzee - 1/4
Corrie Sanders - 73.8% (31 KOs from 42 wins)
Dingaan Thobela - 65% (26 from 40)
Lehlohonolo Ledwaba - 63.9% (23 from 36)
Gerrie Coetzee - 63.6% (21 from 33)
Mbulelo Botile - 59.25% (16 from 27)
Welcome Ncita - 52.5% (21/40)
Cassius Baloyi - 51.3% (19 from 37)
Vic Toweel - 50% (14 from 28)
Baby Jake Matlala - 49% (26 from 53)
Vuyani Bungu - 48.7% (19 from 39)
Brian Mitchell - 46.6% (21 from 45)
Sugarboy Malinga - 43.2% (19 from 44)
Hekkie Budler - 31.2% (10 from 32)
Strength of chin:
Brian Mitchell - 0 KO defeats from 1 loss
Hekkie Budler - 0/3
Cassius Baloyi - 1/8
Vuyani Bungu - 1/5
Vic Toweel - 2/3
Welcome Ncita - 2/3
Baby Jake Matlala - 3/13
Sugarboy Malinga - 3/13
Lehlohonolo Ledwaba - 3/6
Mbulelo Botile - 3/4
Dingaan Thobela - 4/14
Gerrie Coetzee - 4/6
Corrie Sanders - 4/4
Standard of world champions dethroned (based on the number of successful defences plus the fight in which they lost. Winning vacant title scores 0):
Vic Toweel - 21 (Manuel Ortiz - two reigns of 15+6)
Sugarboy Malinga 14 - (Nigel Benn 10; Robin Reid 4)
Brian Mitchell - 10 (Alfredo Layne 2; Tony Lopez 3+5)
Hekkie Budler - 8 (vacant + Ryoichi Taguchi 8)
Vuyani Bungu - 6 (Kennedy McKinney 6)
Corrie Sanders - 6 (Wladimir Klitschko 6)
Dingaan Thobela - 5 (Mauricio Aceves 2 + Tony Lopez 2 + Glenn Catley 1)
Welcome Ncita - 4 (Fabrice Benichou 4)
Baby Jake Matlala - 4 (Pat Clinton 2 + Paul Weir 2)
Mbulelo Botile - 3 (Harold Mestre 1 + Paul Ingle 2)
Cassius Baloyi - 2 (vacant + Mzonke Fana 2)
Gerrie Coetzee - 2 (Michael Dokes 2)
Lehlohonolo Ledwaba - 0 (vacant)
Standard of opponents faced (for this we look at how many of the opponents they beat went on to win world titles themselves. For Vic Toweel, because the alphabet soup wasn’t around in his era, we have given him a special exemption by including Commonwealth titles, which scores him a point for Peter Keenan. For this, we are counting opponents who won marginal titles beyond the big four):
Baby Jake Matlala - 3 (Mzukisi Sikali; Jose Victor Burgos; Zolile Mbityi)
Lehlohonolo Ledwaba - 3 (Choi Tseveenpurov, Cruz Carbajal, Vuyani Bungu)
Vuyani Bungu - 2 (Kennedy McKinney; Takalani Ndlovu)
Cassius Baloyi - 2 (Frankie Toledo, Mzonke Fana)
Sugarboy Malinga - 1 (Robin Reid)
Brian Mitchell - 1 (Tony Lopez)
Corrie Sanders - 1 (Wladimir Klitschko)
Hekkie Budler - 1 (Simphiwe Khonco)
Vic Toweel - 1 (Peter Keenan)
Mbulelo Botile - 0
Gerrie Coetzee - 0
Dingaan Thobela - 0
Welcome Ncita - 0
Overall ranking (awarding 13 points for first place down to one point in each category, and then combined):
1st: Brian Mitchell (73 points)
Tied 2nd: Vuyani Bungu (66)
Tied 2nd: Baby Jake Matlala (66)
4th: Welcome Ncita (55)
5th: Dingaan Thobela (52)
Tied 6th: Hekkie Budler (50)
Tied 6th: Lehlohonolo Ledwaba (50)
Tied 8th: Vic Toweel (49)
Tied 8th: Sugarboy Malinga (49)
10th: Cassius Baloyi (47)
11th: Corrie Sanders (45)
12th: Mbulelo Botile (40)
13th: Gerrie Coetzee (26)..