Port Elizabeth - There was no dry eye in one of the Boardwalk Hotel banquet halls when veteran boxing promoter Mzimasi “Mzi” Mnguni received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 Boxing Awards gala dinner here on Friday.
The 69-year-old, as veteran and well-decorated promoter Rodney Berman succinctly said, “put South Africa on the world map” by producing a bucketful of champions from his Mdantsane-based Eyethu Boxing Gym.
In a career spanning over two decades, Mnguni, a giant of a man with a booming voice, churned out more than 10 national champions. Some of them, such as Vuyani “The Beast” Bungu, Welcome Ncita, Zolani Petelo and Masibulele “Hawk” Makepula - to mention just four - became world title holders.
Bungu defended his title a record 13 times, a feat no other South African has matched.
Ironically, a bitter Mnguni refused to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award from the same Boxing SA (BSA) in 2011, saying he had never been recognised as a promoter by the national boxing governing body, but that impresarios of a lesser stature than him had been honoured.
In 2016, then sports minister Fikile Mbalula honoured Mnguni with a Steve Tshwete Lifetime Achievement Award at the SA Sport Awards.
On Friday, the entire hall gave a standing ovation as the sexagenarian was wheeled on to the stage. Emotions rose high as he asked to be helped to his feet from his wheelchair.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the hall as he first called Berman, his former partner of more than 20 years, onto the stage. In a staccato voice, he then thanked most people who had contributed to his achievements.
Before him, erstwhile middleweight champion and southpaw Elijah “Tap Tap” Makhathini from Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal also rendered a moving speech.
The two registered their wish to produce other champions. But given their state of health, this might be wishful thinking.
Mnguni was bedridden for the better part of 2014 following a car accident late in 2013, that was later followed by a stroke.
Many were surprised when he made an appearance at last year’s awards in Durban in a wheelchair. On Friday, he stood up, albeit being held on both sides.
Other recipients of this award were Derrick Watson, Basil Brice and Archie Jonas.
Besides the emotional and nostalgic stuff, the glittering affair put up by BSA with help from the Eastern Cape government, SABC and Coca-Cola, the night belonged to Zolani “Last Born” Tete. Not only was he crowned Male Boxer of the Year, but he also collected a Recognition for Excellence Award.
- Others recognised in this special category were Nick Lourens and Joy Greyvenstein. Several women were awarded for the good work they had done in the sport.
All seven boxers who received individual awards each pocketed R15 000 in cash.
Noni Tenge (Female Boxer of the Year) and Mlandeli Tengimfene (Manager of the Year) were the only two legatees who retained awards they got last year.
Many who attended last year’s event in Durban concurred that this year’s was much improved. With newly appointed BSA chairperson Peter Ngatane promising to take the sport to dizzy heights, one can only hope to see excellence return to the sport of fisticuffs.