Happy Pieterse, a former SA light-heavyweight champion, has died two days before his 71st birthday. Pieterse, whose first name was Jan, was an also outstanding amateur in the 1960s. He had been suffering from diabetes and died in Alberton near Johannesburg where he had to undergo an operation to amputate one of his legs.
Pieterse won the light-middleweight title at the SA amateur championships in 1963 before turning professional in July 1965 and stopping Boet de Bruyn in the fourth round.
He won his next four fights inside the distance before Willie Jansen stopped him in the third round of a fight for the vacant Transvaal middleweight title.
In 1966, after victories over Italian Mario Pallavera and Victor Emmanuello of France, Pieterse challenged Johnny Wood for the SA middleweight title.
Their fight in the Johannesburg City Hall ended when referee Andy Malloch disqualified Pieterse in the second round for butting.
In a return match against Willie Jansen in April 1967 Pieterse gained revenge when he won on points over ten rounds to claim the Transvaal light-heavyweight title.
After impressive victories over Dawie du Preez and Basie Cilliers, Pieterse knocked out the highly rated Hottie van Heerden in the tenth round to win the SA title in the same division.
In his next fight, against Gerry Hassett from England, he was again disqualified, but he won a return match three months later, beating Hassett on points over ten rounds. He also won on points against another English fighter, Ernie Field.
Pieterse retained the SA light-heavyweight title with a points victory against Gerry de Bruyn on June 18 1968. He also won their return match – on a seventh-round disqualification.
Known as a rather wild, swinging fighter. Pieterse was also involved in a brawl with Dawie du Preez, who was disqualified in the sixth round. In their third meeting he stopped Du Preez in the seventh.
Pieterse lost the national title to Sarel Aucamp on February 14 1970. Aucamp was just too big and strong and knocked him out in the eighth round. It was Pieterse’s last fight. He retired with a record of 17 wins, nine inside the distance, and five defeats.