2017 will be remembered as the one that had a fair number of good and bad incidents in and out of the ring locally and internationally.
The South African fistic calendar kicked off on a cheerful note with the Boxing South Africa 2016 awards hosted at a glittering gala at Durban’s International Convention Centre in January. The ceremony – honouring boxers, trainer, managers and various other stakeholders – took place for the first time in many years.
Enterprising World Boxing Federation bantamweight queen Bukiwe “Anaconda” Nonina walked tall as she won the female of the year for her outstanding showing inside the ring. Xolisani “Nomeva” Ndongeni was voted male boxer of the year for being a true revelation in executing his talent during a great run.
But the sport of the fisticuffs was dealt a blow in April when renowned trainer Nick “Mthakathi” Durandt died in a motorbike accident near Clarens in the Free State in April. He was 53 years old when he departed from this world. He produced 38 world champions, 27 international kingpins and 95 South African title holders in a successful career as a mentor.
On another sad note, flyweight boxer Sinethemba Magibisela was stabbed to death in Ilitha near King William’s Town in September. The 28-year-old was still celebrating a stunning win over Mbulelo Nxasole with friends when the tragedy happened a day after his victory.
One of the highlights boxing this year was the retirement from the sport of Mzonke “Rose of Khayelitsha” Fana after losing the title to Thompson Mokwana at Turffontein Race Course in June.
But the most glorious scene came when the country’s most celebrated pugilist Zolani “Last Born” Tete punched his name into the boxing history by knocking out fellow countryman Siboniso Gonya in just 11 seconds of their World Boxing Organisation bantamweight title at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland, last month.
This was the fastest knockout victory ever recorded in the world title history books. And this made the whole world sit up and take note of the man from Mdantsane in Eastern Cape, who is undoubtedly the country’s hottest boxer pound for pound at the moment.
While local fighters continued to call the shots in the ring this year, there were highlights in other global arenas as well.
Briton Anthony “AJ” Joshua enhanced his profile in a big way by knocking the much-fancied Wladimir Klitschko in the 11th round at Wembley in April to retain the International Boxing Federation world heavyweight crown. In causing that major upset to the then fancied Ukrainian, AJ won the vacant World Boxing Association and International Boxing Organisation belts in front of the biggest boxing audience in the United Kingdom for the first time.
In August, Floyd “Money” Mayweather reached an unbeaten 50-0 record in style by knocking out Irish professional mixed martial artist Conor McGregor in the 10th round at T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas. At stake was Money’s World Boxing Council belt.
Mayweather reportedly won $300 million (about R4 billion) from the fight while McGregor took home $100 million.
All in all, 2017 was an exciting year for boxing connoisseurs.