By Ron Jackson
Zolani Tete from the Eastern Cape who had an outstanding year is the Supersport.com boxer of the year for 2017, after claiming the WBO interim bantamweight belt when he beat Arthur Villaneuva on April 22 and then two days he was elevated to full champion by the WBO to become only the sixth South African to hold a WBO belt.
Tete finished the year in sensational style when he knocked out fellow South African Siboniso Gonya in defence of the WBO belt, in a world record eleven seconds to retain the belt.
A good runner up also from the Eastern Cape is the 21-year-old Azinga Fuzile who made two successful defences of his South African featherweight title and won the final of the Super Four featherweight competition when he stopped the vastly experienced Tshifhiwa Munyai in three rounds.
Rather sadly the boxing year we have just experienced, is once again one of the poorest in the history of South African boxing, especially on the world scene. However, due the high cost of importing top class fighters to South Africa and the exchange rate, promoters can only afford to promote fights with the lesser world bodies.
Only Zolani Tete (WBO) holds a major organization belt and at the end of the year South Africa had three other “world” champions in Kevin Lerena (IBO cruiserweight), Gideon Buthelezi (IBO junior-bantamweight) and Simphiwe Khonco (IBO mini-flyweight).
It is questionable if any of the current South African “world” champions other than Tete would be good enough to win a WBA, WBC, WBO or IBF world title.
Despite tough conditions in a poor economic climate, the local promoters managed to keep the sport afloat. They staged nineteen national title bouts and seven “world” title fights, which possibly is an all-time low for South African boxing. Six of the fights were for the IBO belt and one for the WBF belt.
In the 17 SA weight divisions there were 19 title fights, with no fights at light-heavyweight, super-middleweight and junior-flyweight.
Boxing South Africa must be commended for attempting to bring stricter controls into South African boxing in difficult times. They must also be commended for producing more acceptable ratings over the past three months.
SUPERBOXING’S 2017 AWARDS
Boxer of the Year: Zolani Tete
Fight of the Year: Moruti Mthalane W ko 4 Genesis Libranza to retain the IBO flyweight title.
Prospect of the Year: Deejay Kriel who won the WBC International minimumweight title and remained unbeaten in three fights during the year.
Promoter of the Year: Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves Promotions and Jeff Ellis from African Ring continued to produce good shows to packed houses at Emperors Palace near Kempton during the year.
Upset of the Year: Azinga Fuzile stopping the more experienced Tshifhiwa Munyai, a former Commonwealth, WBA Intercontinental, IBO and WBA Pan African champion in the third round of the Super 4 featherweight competition at Emperors Palace. In what could also be considered an upset Lerato Dlamini outpointed the former triple world champion Simphiwe Vetyeka in the Super 4 featherweight competition.
Mismatch of the Year: Roman Andreev (Russia) W ko 1 Patrick Malinga for the WBO Intercontinental lightweight title.
Knockout of the Year: Zolani Tete knocking out Sibiniso Gonya in eleven seconds to retain the WBO bantamweight belt and honourable mention must be given to Lerato Dlamini knocking out Sithemba Bam in the seventh round in a clash for the vacant IBF Youth featherweight title.
Saddest moment of the year: The sixth round knockout of Herbert Nkabiti by Willis Baloyi at Carnival City, Brakpan. Nkabiti died in hospital the next day.
Best fight venue: The Orient Theatre in East London which is aptly described as “The Mecca of Boxing” and Emperors Palace near Kempton Park which always creates a tremendous vibe.
Media: SuperSport again made it possible for boxing enthusiasts in South Africa and the rest of Africa to watch live television coverage, as well as repeat broadcasts, of SA tournaments and many notable fights abroad. Boxing writers Bongani Magasela and Mesuli Zifo have once again made a major contribution to keep boxing alive in reporting on the sport in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.
Also, South Africa’s number one record keeper Andre de Vries must be complimented for his tireless work in keeping the records of all South African fighters up to date.
Ring officials: Referee Deon Dwarte from Cape Town continued to perform in a competent manner and could be considered as the best official in South Africa.
Long serving judge and referee Stanley Christodoulou who is soon to have a book published on his life in boxing, continued to officiate in title fights around the world
Anty Ferreira, Josia “Bra Sika”, Nick Durandt, Bongani Khumalo, Herbert Nkabiti, Robert Trott, Len Hunt, Freddy Rafferty, Kokkie Olivier, Billy Oliver, Willie Lock and Derrick Watson.