By Clinton van der Berg
Ron Jackson, SuperSport’s long-time boxing correspondent, has just published “Champions,” an illustrated encyclopedia of South African boxing. A labor of love that took the best part of a decade to finish, the 486-page tome is a remarkable work that tells the full story of local boxing. While there have been other such books, chiefly Chris Greyvenstein’s “The Fighters” in the late 1980’s, Jackson’s work distinguishes itself because it is the first time the history of SA’s black boxers has been formally recognized.
Jackson and Andre de Vries, the country’s foremost record keeper, spent many hours scouring old newspapers, newsletters and scrapbooks to reflect the significant – and generally untold – story of SA’s black boxing, from illustrious early hero Jake Tuli to modern greats like Vuyani Bungu and Welcome Ncita.
The book isn’t designed to be read in a single sitting, but is a compendium best enjoyed by dipping into it from time to time. The early years, from the late 1800’s, are especially fascinating and tell the tale of how boxing flourished in Johannesburg and elsewhere around the turn of the early last century.
Although there were several years when blacks and whites fought for separate championships, one of the nasty quirks of apartheid, the book also records how the walls came down and black and white boxers competed on an equal footing before any other SA sport did so.
Given that boxers’ records are such a central part of the sport, the chunk of the book devoted to every SA champion’s record is an excellent accompaniment. It is credit to Jackson and De Vries that they could dig up such information when so little of it has been freely available through the years.
Sadly, South African boxing hasn’t been well served with regards to high-level published works, which makes Jackson’s immense contribution even more welcome and valuable. For orders, please contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org