The Blue Jaguar is dead
One of the legends of SA boxing, Athony Morodi, has died at the age of 69.
Known as the Blue Jaguar, Morodi died on Monday in the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto where he had been treated for a month.
Morodi was a triple SA champion who fought from 1964 to 1978 and compiled a record of 96-25-3, including 32 knockouts. He held the national bantamweight, junior lightweight and lightweight titles.
In 1968 and 1969 Morodi took part in 29 fights; more than some boxers have in a career. In August 1968 he had four fights, winning them all.
He also fought in Australia and Mexico, facing some of the best featherweight and lightweights of the time.
Born on the farm Potloodspruit near Lydenburg on April 9, 1943, Morodi is well remembered as the fighter who stood on his head to make the weight before a title fight.
It happened on March 4, 1972, when he was scheduled to defend his SA lightweight title against Moses Mthembu at Curries Fountain in Durban.
He was over the limit at the morning’s weighin and trainer Theo Mthembu calmly told him to stand on his head while a couple of camp members massaged his legs.
After a few minutes, Morodi got back on the scale. This time, he was within the limit and he went on to retain his title when he knocked out the challenger in the eleventh round.
As an amateur in 1963, Morodi won the Johannesburg and District and Transvaal amateur featherweight titles, but was beaten in the final of the SA championships.
The next year he again won the Johannesburg and District and Transvaal featherweight titles before turning professional on December 5. He won his first fight in the second round by stopping Amos Nkosi.
Morodi won his first professional title in October 1966 when he outpointed Mohamed Patel for the vacant Transvaal featherweight title.
After an unbeaten string of eleven fights, he went on to win the SA bantamweight title by beating Caswell Juqula on points at the Orlando Stadium in December 1967.
In October 1968, he lost to future WBA bantamweight champion Arnold Taylor, who beat him on points over six rounds in Maseru.
Because of weight problems, Morodi relinquished the bantamweight title and moved up to lightweight. He won the Transvaal title when he stopped Eric Mahlo in the ninth round.
After retaining the belt against Victor Tshabalala and Eric Mahlo, he beat Commonwealth lightweight champion Percy Hales of Jamaica on points over ten rounds in an outstanding performance.
On November 15, 1969, Morodi won the SA title in the newly created junior lightweight division when he outpointed Richard Borias over 12 rounds.
Only three months later he captured the SA lightweight title, winning on points against one of the legends of the SA ring, Enoch (Schoolboy) Nhlapo, a 91-fight veteran at that stage.
The tough little fighter lost only five fights inside the distance. In one of these he was stopped in the seventh round by Pat Hlabagane after suffering a bad cut on his forehead.
His only other stoppage losses were to Nkosana (Happyboy) Mgxaji in June 1974 when he challenged for the SA junior lightweight title, and to Andries Steyn and Peet Bothma at the end of his career when he was past his best.
But in October 1974 he was still good enough to beat Jim Watt of Scotland at the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg. Watt went on to win the WBC lightweight title in April 1979.
Morodi took part in nine SA title fights in three divisions and in the 1970s was ranked No 10 in the lightweight division by Ring magazine.
Before he became ill, Morodi was a regular at the East Rand Veterans Boxing Association meetings and I was privileged to have some interesting chats with a real gentleman of the ring.