Boxing’s ‘Doc Lappies’ dies at 84

By Ron Jackson

Dr Izak Labuschagne, a former member of the SA Boxing Board of Control, has died at the age of 84. Dr Labuschagne, a prominent ear, nose and throat specialist who was the medical officer at many boxing tournaments and title fights in Johannesburg, was also a member of the Transvaal Rugby Union (now Golden Lions) executive. He died in Cape Town on Thursday after spending many years in Johannesburg. His wife Margaret said he had recently fallen and broken a hip. He never fully recovered from the injuries.

Dr Labuschagne’s knowledge of sports injuries was also recognised abroad, where he had a large circle of friends and contacts in the medical field. “Doc Lappies”, as he was known among rugby players, boxers, sports administrators and journalists, made a valued contribution to boxing and rugby. He represented Free State University at boxing and retained his love of the sport long after he qualified as a specialist.

He served as a member of the SA Boxing Board of Control from 1971 to 1990, roughly the same period that he was a committee member at the Transvaal Rugby Union.

At times he was a member of about 40 organisations and clubs. An extremely likeable man and a forceful speaker at meetings, he will be remembered by boxing enthusiasts who saw him examine injured and badly cut boxers in the ring.

The safety of boxers was always his main concern and he enjoyed the unconditional respect of ring officials, trainers and fighters.

During the years of his involvement in sport he attended many of the most memorable tournaments and watched most of the world title fights in South Africa. And for many years he hardly ever missed a rugby test match at Ellis Park.

He met and watched many famous boxers and often said heavyweight champion Gerrie Coetzee was South Africa’s most outstanding fighter after World War II.

As a medical expert he never hesitated to encourage young men to take up amateur boxing, citing advantages such as fitness and mental well-being.

International Boxing Hall of Fame referee Stan Christodoulou, a close friend of Dr Labuschagne for many years, said on Friday: “He was a wonderful character and a man’s man.”


One of South Africa’s most respected referees and judges, Isaac Tshabalala, also died in Cape Town recently. Tshabalala, originally from East London, had been living in Cape Town for some time. During his long career as an official, he handled many SA title fights and was also a judge in IBF title fights. In recent years he worked for the IBO as a referee and a judge in several title fights.

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