By Ron Jackson
Simpiwe Vetyeka, Hekkie Budler and Zolani Tete were the top achievers in SA professional boxing in 2013. Even though the sport in South Africa endured another disappointing year, the promoters managed to stage 31 national title bouts and 15 South Africans fought in “world” title fights. In six of the 17 divisions there was only one title fight and the standard in some championship bouts was poor. South Africans won 9 “world” title fights but only one was presented by one of the leading organizations, namely the WBA. The others were for titles offered by organizations such as the IBO and WBF.
At the end of the year, eight South Africans held belts awarded by one of the “world” organizations. They were Tommy Oosthuizen (IBO super-middleweight), Chris van Heerden (IBO welterweight), Hekkie Budler (IBO strawweight), Thabo Sonjica (IBO junior featherweight), Moruti Mthalane (IBF flyweight), Zolani Marali (WBF junior welterweight), Danie Venter (WBF cruiserweight) and Simphiwe Vetyeka, unquestionably the leading SA boxer and WBA and IBO featherweight champion.
Budler was the most active champion, making three successful defences of his IBO belt and claiming the WBA interim minimumweight title. He came of age in retaining his belt against Renan Trongco, Nkosinathi Joyi and Hugo Verchelli.
Among the landmark bouts for SA boxers in 2013 were:
In June, Hekkie Budler outpointed, against the odds, the highly regarded former IBF mini-flyweight champion Nkosinathi Joyi who suffered only his second loss in 27 fights.
In November, Zolani Tete knocked out former IBF junior bantamweight Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr of Mexico in an IBF title eliminator.
The outstanding performance of the year came from Simphiwe Vetyeka, who stopped previously unbeaten Indonesian Chris John in the sixth round to win the WBA “super” featherweight belt in December.
Vetyeka became the first South African to be recognised as a WBA super champion. In April, he knocked out another Indonesian, Daud Cino Yordan, to claim the IBO featherweight belt.
Sadly, Moruti Mthalane, probably the best SA fighter, pound for pound, had no fights in 2013.