Johannesburg - For the most part, retired boxing referee Alf “Kid Bassie” Buqwana is happy, but his contentment is clouded by the treatment he has received from the fraternity since he stepped away from the ring.
We meet Buqwana (76) at his home in Orlando East, Soweto. He has just returned from fetching his two granddaughters, Nathi (5) and Anele (2), from a nursery school that is a stone’s throw away from his house.
The grandfather and self-appointed childminder feels boxing has enriched his life in a profound way by enabling him to see the world.
Buqwana (76) jokes gleefully about the improving standard of professional boxing in the country and how he has contributed to the development of the sport.
However, his face turns sour as he explains that he no longer attends boxing matches because he does not get any invitations to watch fights.
“You know, I only watch boxing on television. Ever since I retired at the beginning of this year, nobody has bothered to give me a ticket for a fight, or even invite me to a boxing match. I still miss the action very much.
“It pains me because I feel I contributed towards the growth of South African boxing, yet it looks like I am no longer being recognised now that I have retired,” he says.
As one of the country’s top officials, Buqwana officiated in more than 50 local fights in a distinguished career as a referee and judge.
One of the highlights of his involvement in the sport was being in the middle in the South African welterweight title fight between the late Arthur “Fighting Prince” Mayisela and Harold “The Hammer” Volbrecht at the Sun City Superbowl in 1986. Buqwana was forced to stop the fight in the fifth round because of an accidental clash of heads between the fighters. This meant Volbrecht, the defending champion who was behind on points at the time, retained his title.
To this day, Buqwana, who believes Mayisela was given a raw deal, is baffled by the manner in which the outcome of that match was decided.
But Kid Bassie is still hailed by the boxing world for the professional manner in which he handled that particular bout.
All corners of the globe
“Look, I had never heard of the word technical draw before and thought Mayisela had won the fight as he was ahead on points at the time,” he explains.
“The public, including myself, felt that Fighting Prince was robbed because the decision went to Volbrecht".
Buqwana, a former professional fighter and welterweight title holder, says he deserves to be recognised at home for the role he has played in the development of the sport.
“I have also trained and empowered some of the current crop of officials. Maybe I will be remembered one of these days".
The veteran has been to all corners of the globe and officiated in 12 world title fights in the US.
One of the highlights of his career was judging the World Boxing Association (WBA) heavyweight title fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in 1997.
That bout, later infamously dubbed “the bite fight”, achieved notoriety as one of the most bizarre in boxing history after Tyson bit off part of Holyfield’s ear.
Tyson was disqualified and lost his boxing licence, though it was later reinstated.
Buqwana grins as he says he was part of the bigger picture as a judge during that clash.
His eyes light up as he shows me one of the pictures of that encounter that hangs on the wall in his house alongside many other shots of him officiating.
“This fight was the best for me as an official, and I don’t forget about it. I was given a special invitation by the WBA to officiate in it,” he says.
“The fact that I was close by when the two fighters mixed it up and tore each other up – until Tyson bit a chunk out of Holyfield’s ear – was memorable.”
At his ripe age, Kid Bassie has seen it all in boxing and believes South African boxing has improved over the years.
“It is heartening to see that there are so many world and national champions these days. It shows that boxing is thriving,” he says.
Hopefully, he will be invited to future bouts so that he can watch from the stands.