By Ron Jackson
Legendary, boxing trainer, manager and promoter Mzi Mnguni died in an East London hospital on Saturday morning. He is one of the most successful South African manager-trainers of all time and as owner of one of the biggest stores in Mdantsane near East London was also a very successful businessman.
Born on 26 July 1947 in Alice in the Eastern Cape he moved to Johannesburg in the late 1960’s and worked as a messenger before becoming a driver for the producer Gibson Kente’s cast.
He also worked as a bus driver for some time before returning to East London in 1977.
Tragically late in 2012 he was involved in a horrendous motor accident near Mdantsane leaving three persons dead. He miraculously survived the crash but had to spend some time in hospital.
Known as Bra Mzi, he had been battling with his health since a heart attack in 2014 which left him in a wheelchair.
Mzi produced his first South African champion on 10 August 1982 when Mveleli Luzipho beat Thamsanga Sogcwe for the South African junior flyweight title.
Assisted by Mveleli and Welsh Mnguni he would go on to produce world champions like Welcome Ncita, Masibulele “Hawk” Makepula, Mbulelo Botile, Zolani Petelo, Lindi Memani, Zolile Mbityi, Mhikiza Myekeni, Vuyani Bungu, and Ali Funeka, from his gymnasium in Mdantsane.
Promoting under the banner of Eyethu Boxing Promotions a name which he took from a supermarket many years ago he became one of the most successful promoters in the history of South African boxing, with the Orient Theatre becoming a name synonymous with boxing around the world.
Mzi also had a good working relationship with Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves Promotions, and they put together many tournaments and world title fights.
Being an outspoken personality and his passion for the game got Mzi into trouble with the boxing authorities at times.
In 1990 he received the prestigious King Korn/SA Boxing World award for Promoter of the Year.
He was a man of principal and in 2011 he refused to accept a Lifetime Achievement award from Boxing SA as he felt that he had never been recognized as a promoter when other lesser promoters than him were nominated for the promoters’ award.
At the 2016 Boxing SA awards held in Durban in January and 2017 he received the Steve Tshwete Lifetime Achievement Award.