By Ron Jackson
Former South African heavyweight champion and outstanding trainer Billy Lotter died on Tuesday. Billy who was 71 had been suffering from cancer for the past two years. A southpaw and born Willem Godfriend Lotter in Pretoria on May 25, 1937, Billy won the South African heavyweight title when he scored an easy 12 round points decision over Stoffel Willemse in Johannesburg on February 29, 1964.
However, Lotter should have been a national champion long before he beat Willemse. As a middleweight he beat three successive title holders, Chris van Rooyen, Dickie Williams and Henry Speedie, in non-title fights.
Billy made his pro debut as a welterweight on September 12, 1956 with a points win over Don Riggs and followed this up with wins over Laurie Lawson, Harry de Jongh and Norman Johnstone. In 1957 he scored two points wins over Hottie van Heerden who would become one of the best ever middleweights produced in South Africa. In only his ninth fight Lotter was stopped by the more experienced Johnny van Rensburg when challenging for the vacant South African welterweight title and in November of 1957 was once again beaten by Van Rensburg in another challenge for the welterweight title. In a third meeting with Van Heerden in July 1960 Lotter was outpointed over 12 rounds when challenging for the South African middleweight title.
As a light heavyweight he gave the veteran but still capable Mike Holt one of the toughest nights of his life, losing on points, before winning the heavyweight title from Willemse. He made a successful defence of the heavyweight title against Dewald de Waal before going to London and scoring a third round stoppage win over the capable Johnny Hendrickson of Jamaica. In November 1965 Lotter scored points decision over De Waal in a non-title fight and in December outpointed Giorgio Masteghin of Italy. On May 2, 1966 in what was to be his last fight Billy lost his heavyweight title to Gerry de Bruyn when he was knocked in the seventh round, to finish with a career record of 32 wins, 7 losses and ten wins inside the distance.
After retiring from the ring Lotter went on to become an extremely successful manager and trainer in the 1970’s. He guided the career of Kallie Knoetze and also did an outstanding job of rescuing the career of Charlie Weir.