Best Boxers in History from South Africa
Take a look at the top 5 boxers in history from South Africa. It’s a proud boxing nation, and there remains a contingent of talented titleholders and champions coming from the country to this day. Here are a few of the very best of all time.
1. Brian Mitchell (1981-1995): Lost only once in 49 fights and thrice avenged that defeat. Reigned as 130-pound champion from 1986-1991 and scored a total of 15 title fight victories. With the political turmoil in South Africa at the time, he was somewhat blacklisted, unable to secure meaningful matches, particularly in his homeland. Finally got some big fights late in his career, twice traveling to Sacramento, earning a draw and a win over Tony Lopez. He didn’t do anything in the ring that shouted greatness, but he was one of those fighters who did everything well. When the sum of his accomplishments and record are taken into account, it is difficult to deny the Hall of Famer the tag of greatness.
2. Vuyani Bungu (1987-2005): Came up short in his biggest fight against Naseem Hamed, but Bungu was already past his best and fighting above his natural weight class. At 122 pounds, the talented Bungu was a handful and then some. Scored the 1994 Upset of the Year in defeating unbeaten and well-regarded Kennedy McKinney for the IBF 122-pound crown by unanimous decision. Proved McKinney’s master with a repeat win in 1997. Scored 13 defenses of the crown, including triumphs over Jesus Salud and a key win over Danny Romero. Even on his way down, Bungu managed a pair of wins over Takalani Ndlovu–who is the current holder of Bungu’s old title all these years later.
3. Vic Toweel (1949-1955): The indefatigable Toweel’s career was brief, as was his stay at the top, but he was the best in the world at 118 as he romped to a 26-0-1 record before he hit a wall. On his way up, posted wins over faded luminaries Jackie Paterson and Manuel Ortiz. Beat Danny O’Sullivan for the World Bantamweight Title in 1950 and scored nice defenses against Luis Romero, and 31-0-1 Peter Keenan, before losing his title to Jimmy Carruthers.
4. Dingaan Thobela (1986-2006): The “Rose of Soweto” was probably the most talented fighter on this list, but unfortunately lacked the work ethic of those ranked above him. Nevertheless, Thobela still had a pretty good career. Feasted on a demanding domestic scene in the late-80’s, before turning his sights to world-class waters. Claimed the WBO Lightweight Title, before moving up in class to face Tony Lopez twice in Sacramento. Probably won both fights, though he was only given credit for the second one, which netted him the WBA Lightweight Title. Lost his title in 1993 to underrated Orzubek Nazarov. A testament to his talent, Dingaan resurfaced in 2000 to claim the WBC Super Middleweight belt with a knockout win over Glenn Catley, a full 5 weight classes above where he first reigned.
5. Mbulelo Botile (1989-2005): At one time, he was a very good bantamweight titleholder, who claimed the IBF title in 1995. Scored a series of dominant defenses over Sammy Stewart, Reynaldo Hurtado, and unbeaten Aristead Clayton. Lost his title to Tim Austin, but then resurfaced two divisions higher at featherweight, beating Paul Ingle for the IBF title in 2000 by 12th-round TKO, in a fight that tragically ended his opponent’s career.
Hopefully you enjoyed our list of the best boxers from South Africa in the history of the sport, if you care to debate, question or argue, then feel free to chime in with a comment below. Of course, there could quickly be some new names on this list over the next few years depending on how the careers of some active fighters continue to pan out.