Boxing awards come a long way
It’s almost time to start selecting the boxers of the year, worldwide and in almost every country, as well as the fights of the year.
The outstanding fighters will be feted and presented with awards at gala events, as has been done for many years.
In fact, the practice of presenting boxing awards go back to 800 BC. Winners at the ancient Olympic Games received laurel wreaths.
The custom of naming a boxer of the year was started by The Ring magazine in 1928. Other boxing magazines later had their own annual awards.
In South Africa, the first awards ceremony was held on June 5, 1948 when Fight magazine presented awards at the Wembley Stadium in Johannesburg.
Johnny Ralph was named best SA boxer for 1947 and the fight between Alf James and Giel de Roode as the best contest.
Freddie Mills was named “best imported boxer” for 1947. Ted Broadribb received the trophy on his behalf. Jimmy Toweel received one for most improved boxer of the year.
The winners for 1948 were Johnny Ralph (best SA boxer), Alf James and George Angelo for the best contest, Tony Lombard (most improved boxer of the year and Freddie Mills again for best imported boxer.
In 1949, Vic Toweel was Fight magazine’s best SA boxer and the most improved boxer of the year. The heavyweight fight between Johnny Arthur and Piet Strydom was chosen as best contest and Bruce Woodcock was unanimously voted nest imported boxer.
The SA Boxing Writers Association presented awards in 1960. Mike Holt was boxer of the year, Phil Kleynhans the most improved boxer of the year and Stoffel Steyn the best amateur of the year.
In recent years, Boxing World magazine (it was known as South African Boxing World until July 1989) has been instrumental in honouring SA fighters.
The awards ceremony for achievements in 1976 was sponsored by the sporting goods manufacturers Olympic International and held at Doug Dolan’s gym in February 1977.
Nkosana “Happyboy” Mgxaji was named professional fighter of the year and Jimmy Abbott as amateur fighter of the year. Elijah “Tap Tap” Makhatini, Harold Volbrecht, Gerrie Coetzee, Stanley Christodoulou, Maurice Toweel and Pierre Fourie all received merit award certificates.
From 1977 to 1978 the SA awards were backed by Holiday Inns Limited and Old Buck Gin.
King Korn sponsored the event in 1979 and the King Korn/Boxing World annual awards became the most prestigious in SA boxing.
In 2003 King Korn withdrew their sponsorship and the Boxing SA awards were introduced. Sadly, no awards have been presented in 2011.
In South Africa, the boxer of the year award was the highest accolade for many years. Charlie Weir, Gerrie Coetzee, Brian Mitchell, Vuyani Bungu and Mzonke Fana are among those who won it more than once.
Mitchell won the award six times – from 1986 to 1991 – and Bungu won it four times, in 1994 and also in 1996, 1997 and 1998.
Among the prospect of the year award winners were Welcome Ncita (1986), Dingaan Thobela (1987), Gary Murray (1990), Jan Bergman (1991), Phillip Holiday (1992), Lehlohonolo Ledwaba (1995), Hawk Makepula (1997), Phillip Ndou (1998), Silence Mabuza (2000), Isaac Hlatshwayo (2001), Samuel Malinga (2002), Nkosinathi Joyi (2003) and Chris van Heerden (2007).
All went on to win “world” titles presented by one or more of the organisations that run boxing.