By Ron Jackson
Former Natal lightweight champion and boxing journalist Gary Gordon has died. Gordon, who had been ill for some time, died at the age of 80 in a frail-care institution in Durban, South Africa, on Wednesday. In one of his 19 professional fights he lost on a technical knockout to Willie Toweel. He also lost in the second round to Hubert Essakow, only 16 days before Toweel stopped Essakow in the eleventh round. Essakow died 52 hours later.
Gordon, who was born in Pietermaritzburg on 3 May 1934, moved to Durban in 1953. Because he was often involved in street fights, a neighbour suggested to his parents in 1948 that he take up boxing.
He joined the Pietermaritzburg Technical College club, but dropped out after taking some big punches from a bigger boy. Two years later he went back. He won the Natal senior featherweight title, eliminating former SA and Natal champion Evan Stokes in a preliminary round and outpointing Roy Jenner in the final.
Even though the Olympic Games trials were to be held a few weeks later, Gordon turned professional, with Ron Franks as his trainer.
On his 18th birthday in 1952, he won his professional debut when he beat Piet Kriel on points in Pietermaritzburg.
It was said that Gordon never liked training when he was an amateur and he trained for only two days before his second professional fight. Even so, he knocked out Lawrie Lawson in the first round. He did not train much more before he also knocked out Felix Olivier in the first round.
He later settled down and spent more time in the gym. He beat Hennie Snyman, Josh Blignaut, Billy Lamberton and Benny Els, twice, before losing to Johnny van Blerk.
Against Van Blerk he was well ahead on points before his left eye was swollen almost completely shut. He retired in the sixth round.
After a victory over Eric Olivier, he fought Willie Toweel at the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg on 5 May 1954, losing on a third-round technical knockout. Toweel later won SA titles in four divisions and became the Empire lightweight champion.
Gordon then won against Gerry Olivier, Billy Lamberton and Johnny van Blerk before losing to the unbeaten Essakow.
He also beat Louis Klopper and Hennie van Zyl but then lost to a future SA welterweight champion, Bennie Nieuwenhuizen. In his last fight, on 30 August 1958, Gordon outpointed Sampie Pretorius to finish with a record of 14-5, including 6 wins inside the distance.
He ran his own plastering business for years before working for the Durban Corporation. He was also a freelance boxing writer for the Daily News and Natal Mercury and Associate Editor of Boxing World magazine.
Over the years, he built up a fine collection of boxing photographs, press cuttings and boxing books.