Johannesburg - The current dearth of heavyweights in the country has raised concerns about the parlous state of the division.
South Africa has not had a world-class heavyweight since Corrie Sanders knocked out Johnny du Plooy at the Sun City Superbowl on July 27 1991 to win the then-vacant South African heavyweight title.
Unfortunately, both fighters have gone the way of all flesh.
Sanders did not get a chance to defend his national crown and relinquished it in 1999.
In March 2003, Sanders went on to beat Ukranian Wladimir Klitschko by a second-round technical knockout to capture the World Boxing Organisation world heavyweight title in Hanover, Germany.
This was a stunning display and a great upset by the burly South African southpaw.
Sanders later surrendered his heavyweight title to the elder Klitschko brother, Vitali, via an eighth-round stoppage defeat in Los Angeles in the US in April 2004.
Sanders’ last bout for the national title was a first-round knockout loss to Osborne “Big Daddy” Machimana at Emperors Palace in 2008.
During that bout, Big Daddy was at the prime of his career. Word in the boxing circles then was that Sanders lost because he accepted the fight despite having injured his hand in training.
So vibrant was the heavyweight division in the country previously that there was regular action, with the likes of Jacob Mofokeng, Anton Nel, Machimana, and Wiseman Dlomo lighting up the scene.
But a look at the current crop of local boxers listed on the Boxing South Africa (BSA) ratings for February reflects no worthy contenders on the rung when compared with those glorious years way back when.
According to the listings, Machimana, who is a has-been at the age of 38, is the current champion.
He has had nine bouts since March 2010, when he stopped Bully Muravha in the eighth stanza of their South African heavyweight title at Johannesburg’s Nasrec Arena.
Machimana vacated the championship, but regained it by knocking out Nel in the fourth round at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg in May last year.
“I’m aware that I’m now old. I’m left with only two more fights before I quit. At the moment, I don’t have any opponent in my division,” said Machimana.
Limited number of fighters
The 48-year-old Nel, who is supposed to have retired, is placed third in contention for the crown, with the Cape Town-based Congolese boxer Didier Kilola placed second. Nel announced his retirement after his loss to Machimana, but, strangely, is still ranked.
According to BoxRec, Kilola has fought once, losing to Ruann Visser on points at Emerald Casino in Vanderbijlpark last September.
Other heavyweight contenders do not inspire any confidence as they only have a handful of fights.
BSA ratings committee chairperson Willie Saayman said the division was not active because of the limited number of fighters in this class in the country.
“To make the weight class as vibrant as it as before, my advice is to have trainers and managers work closely with BSA to update them about their boxers’ progress in the ring,” said Saayman.