By Ron Jackson
In a year that produced a number of highs and a good many lows for SA boxers, Simphiwe Nongqayi and Mlungisi Dlamini were the leading lights. They will be at the front of the queue when votes are counted for the SA boxer of the year 2009. SA boxers won no fewer than ten “world titles” in 2009 but not many of them can be considered for a top-ten rating in the world. The exceptions are IBF champions Nongqayi and Moruti Mthalane, who could be ranked in the top ten of any of the organisations that run boxing. Some of the SA “world champions” did not hold on to their belts for long during a year in which there were fewer SA title and “world title” fights than in 2008. Only 24 national title fights were presented in 2009 after the 29 in the previous year. South Africans were involved in 22 “world title” fights in 2009 after appearing in 27 in 2008. There were no SA title fights in the heavyweight, light-heavyweight and middleweight divisions.
WINNING BELTS FOR SA
In February, Francois Botha won his second “world title” when he beat American Ron Guerrero to win the vacant World Boxing Foundation heavyweight belt.
In March, Takalani Ndlovu won the vacant World Boxing Foundation featherweight belt.
In April, Zolani Marali won the vacant IBO junior lightweight belt.
On July 11, Lovemore Ndou, who fights out of Australia, won the vacant IBO welterweight belt when he upset Phillip Ndou in Kempton Park.
In August, Isaac Hlatshwayo outpointed Delvin Rodriguez in Uncasville to win the vacant IBF welterweight belt.
In September, Simphiwe Nongqayi went to Mexico and, against the odds, beat Mexico’s Jorge Arce to win the IBF super flyweight belt.
On October 31, at Emperors Palace, Mlungisi Dlamini stopped Zolani Marali in the fourth round to win the vacant IBO lightweight belt.
And in November, Moruti Mtahlane beat Mexican Julio Cesar Miranda to take the vacant IBF flyweight belt.
Malcolm Klassen, Marali and Hlatshwayo did not hold on to their belts for long, losing their titles in low-key, disappointing performances.
It is also notable that South Africans often challenge for vacant belts.
SA HOLDERS OF WORLD BELTS
South Africans who held “world titles” at the end of 2009 were:
Moruti Mthalane (IBF flyweight), Mlungisi Dlamini (IBO lightweight), Simphiwe Nongqayi (IBF super flyweight), Bongani Mwelase (WBF junior middleweight), Lovemore Ndou (IBO welterweight), Simphiwe Vetyeka (IBO bantamweight), Takalani Ndlovu (WBF featherweight), Francois Botha (WBF heavyweight), Lubabalo Msuthu (WBF bantamweight) and William Gare (WBF super middleweight).
Despite unfavourable press reports and concern over Boxing SA’s financial situation, boxing in South Africa is still highly regarded abroad.
In the December edition of The Ring , several SA fighters were rated.
Mzonke Fana was third in the junior lightweight division, Malcolm Klassen fifth at junior lightweight, Cassius Baloyi sixth at junior lightweight, Ali Funeka third among the lightweights, Jeffrey Mathebula eighth at junior featherweight, Silence Mabuza sixth in the bantamweight division, Simphiwe Nongqayi third among the junior bantamweights, Moruthi Mthalane ninth and Zolani Tete tenth at flyweight and Nkosinathi Joyi fourth at strawweight.
Some of these rankings appeared a little bit on the generous side.
TOP SA PERFORMANCES IN 2009
SA fighters produced several outstanding performances in 2009.
Ali Funeka was unfortunate in losing a close decision to Nate Campbell and receiving a disputed drawn decision against Joan Guzman in IBF lightweight title fights.
The IBF junior lightweight title fight between champion Cassius Baloyi and Malcolm Klassen produced classy boxing and will be a strong contender for Boxing SA’s fight of the year.
Simphiwe Nongqayi excelled when he beat Mexican legend Jorge Arce on points to win the IBF super flyweight belt.
Another outstanding performance was when Moruthi Mthalane won the vacant IBF flyweight belt by outscoring Mexican Julio Cesar Miranda.
FIGHTERS FOR THE FUTURE
Among the promising boxers who impressed during the year were Jason Bedeman and Mlungisi Dlamini.
Probably the most promising SA fighter is mini-flyweight Nkosinathi Joyi, who was inactive in 2009 but is good enough to fight for a belt offered by one of the major organisations.
Unbeaten super middleweight Thomas Oosthuizen has shown a lot of promise and is another one to be watched in 2010.
However, the standard of boxing in national title fights left a lot to be desired. The quality of the challengers also caused concern, as did the officiating in some fights.
Thanks to SuperSport, boxing enthusiasts all over Africa were able to watch live television coverage of many memorable fights during 2009.
BEST AND WORST OF SA BOXING IN 2009
SuperBoxing has compiled an unofficial “awards list” that reflects the year’s successes and failures in SA boxing.
Boxer of the Year: Simphiwe Nongqayi and Mlungisi Dlamini, jointly.
Fight of the Year: Malcolm Klassen v Cassius Baloyi and Sabelo Jubatha v Luthando Vukuza, jointly
Prospect of the Year: Thomas Oosthuizen.
Trainer of the Year: Gert Strydom.
Ring Official of the Year: Siya Vabaza.
Promoter of the Year: Jeff Ellis, who also did outstanding work for charity with his box-and-dine tournaments.
Punch of the Year: André Thysse, who made a comeback after being out for 32 months, knocked out Emmanuel Duma with a spectacular blow in the fifth round at Emperors Palace.
Disappointment of the Year: Vusi Malinga being stopped inside one round by Hozumi Hasegawa of Japan when challenging for the WBC bantamweight belt.
Chin of the Year: Chris van Heerden.
Most Improved Fighter of the Year: Klaas Mboyane.
Comeback of the Year: Phillip Ndou.
Mismatch of the Year: When Macbute Sinyabi stopped Desmond Samuels inside a round to retain his SA junior featherweight title
Worst Decisions of the Year: Ali Funeka being given only a draw against Joan Guzman in a clash for the vacant IBF lightweight belt and Nkqubela Gwazela winning on a majority points decision over Nick Otieno from Kenya in a ten-round bantamweight fight.
Saddest Moments of the Year: Soon Botes giving up against Thabiso Mchunu when challenging for the SA junior heavyweight title.