By Ron Jackson
Gabula “Slashing Tiger” Vabaza a former South Africa flyweight and WBU junior-bantamweight champion died in East London on Wednesday night. He was 40. Vabaza who was born in Duncan Village on August 23, 1978 was an outstanding fighter and he remained unbeaten throughout his ten year professional career to finish with a record of 23-0-1, 15 KOs.
He made his pro debut on August 25, 1996 and won his next ten fights with eight inside the distance, before claiming the vacant South African flyweight title with a ninth round stoppage win over Lulama Tyamzashe at the Wembley Arena in Johannesburg on December 15, 1999.
One of South Africa’s top referees, former fighter Alfred Buqwana, was the third man in the ring.
Vabaza made successful defenses of the South African title against Leo Dyakophu (tko 4), Necedo Cecane (tko 10), Zolile Mbityi (d 12) and Loyiso Ngxabazi (ko 5)
The draw was a fine performance against Mbityi who was an outstanding fighter, winning SA flyweight and junior-bantamweight, and IBO flyweight titles.
On July 26, 2002 at the River Park in East London Vabaza stopped the defending champion Tanzanian, Magoma Shabani in the first round to win the World Boxing Union junior-bantamweight belt, and then made a successful defense against Mbwana Matumla (pts12).
He relinquished the WBU belt and beat Vuyani Phulo on a fifth round knockout in a WBC junior-featherweight title eliminator.
On Feb 25, 2005 he won the vacant WBA Intercontinental junior-featherweight title with a points win over Roger Galica and then made two successful defenses before retiring from the ring.
It was rather sad that this highly talented fighter had to retire so early and also die at a young age.