By Ron Jackson
Mere numbers suggest that South African boxers had a bumper year in 2008. Twenty seven “world” title fights and twenty nine South African title fights.However, on closer inspection one must ask whether any of them can be ranked among the top ten in the world in their divisions, let alone be called world champions. This is how they ranked in the honours:
In April, Cassius Baloyi became a six-time champion when he beat Mzonke Fana for the IBF junior lightweight belt.
In February William Gare won the vacant World Boxing Foundation super middleweight belt.
Zolile Mbityi won the IBO super flyweight belt when he upset Hawk Makepula in Kempton Park on May 31.
In August Ludumo Galada blew away David Kiilu of Kenya to win the vacant World Boxing Foundation featherweight belt.
Bongani Mwelese beat Juan Carlos Villereal from Argentina in one round become World Boxing Foundation welterweight champion in October.
In November, Lubabalo Msuthu won another low rent title when stopped Jose Cabrera of Argentina in the second round for the vacant World Boxing Foundation bantamweight belt.
Most of these so-called world titles are not worth much in world terms. The champions can at best be called only belt holders.
It is significant that South Africans often challenge for vacant belts.
But, for the record, the current SA belt holders at the end of 2008 are:
Lubabalo Msuthu (WBF bantamweight), Bongani Mwelase (WBF welterweight), Ludumo Galada (WBF featherweight), Zolile Mbityi (IBO super flyweight), William Gare (WBF super middleweight), Oscar Chauke (WBF junior featherweight), Zolani Tete (WBF flyweight) Silence Mabuza (IBO bantamweight), Mlungisi Dlamini (WBF lightweight), Simphiwo Nongqayi (WBF junior bantamweight), Nkosinathi Joyi (IBO strawweight) and Cassius Baloyi (IBF junior lightweight) who is the only South Africa to hold a belt from one of the major organisations.
In the November rankings of Ring magazine only two of South Africa’s belt holders were among the top ten. Mabuza was at No 4 in the bantams and Baloyi also at No 4 in the junior lightweights.
These rankings appear high considering their quality of opposition in 2008.
Other South African’s ranked in the Ring magazine top ten are Moruthi Mthalane (bantamweight 10), Vusi Malinga (junior bantamweight 8), Ali Funeka (lightweight 9), Isaac Hlatshwayo (welterweight 10) and in the junior lightweights Mzonke Fana is at No. 5 and Malcolm Klassen at No.10.
Nevertheless, there were some excellent performances by SA boxers in 2008.
Ali Funeka was in outstanding form when he stopped Zahir Raheem in the fourth round in July in an IBF lightweight title eliminator.
The IBF junior lightweight title fight between defending champion Mzonke Fana and Cassius Baloyi was an outstanding fight and will be a strong contender for Boxing SA’s fight of the year.
Evans Mbamba scored a shock seventh round technical knockout over Devid Lookmahanak of the Philippines in a final eliminator for the WBC flyweight belt.
Among the promising fighters who impressed during the year were Zolani Tete and Moruthi Mthalane who was unfortunate to lose on a cut eye stoppage against Nonito Donaire when challenging for the IBF flyweight belt.
Possibly the most promising fighter in South Africa is mini flyweight Nkosinathi Joyi who is good enough to fight for one of the major organisation belts.
Even though he has only had two wins in the professional ranks former Olympian, flyweight Jackson Chauke has shown a lot of promise.
The standard of boxing in national title fights also left a lot to be desired. The quality of the challengers also caused concern, as did the officiating in some fights.