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Denis Adams never lost his Empire flyweight title in the ring. Adams lost the title on May 31 1961 when South Africa became a republic outside the British Commonwealth and her boxers were then no longer eligible to hold Empire titles.

South Africa’s first two Olympic gold medal winners were Clarence Walker (1920) and Willie Smith (1924) and the first two professional world champions were Smith, who on October 6, 1927 won the British version of the world bantamweight title when he outpointed Teddy Baldock over 15 rounds at the Royal Albert Hall in London and Vic Toweel, who won the Universal world bantamweight title on a points decision over 15 rounds against Manuel Ortiz on May 31, 1950.

Max Gornik an Australian middleweight, is best remembered for the unusual result of his fight with Charlie Smith in the Johannesburg City Hall on January 15 1927. The fight started late in the evening and the boxers were in the 14th round when the clock struck midnight. Ludwig Japhet pointed out to Tiny Dean that they would be infringing the Sunday Observance Act if the bout continued. “The clock’s fast,” Dean argued. But unfortunately the Post Office clock could be heard chiming in the distance and Japhet refused to budge. The bout was stopped and although Smith was ahead on points, the result was declared as a 14-round draw.

The first black South African to win a world title was Peter Mathebula, who won the WBA flyweight title when he outpointed Korean Tae Shik Kim over 15 rounds on December 13, 1980 in Los Angeles, USA. It was a split decision.

In 2009 Brian Mitchell was the first South African boxer to be inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Jake Tuli (N’tuli) became the first black South African fighter to win a British Empire title when he stopped England’s Teddy Gardner in the twelfth round in Newcastle, England, on September 8, 1952.

The first South African to win a universal world title and to date the only one was Vic Toweel who outpointed Manuel Ortiz over 15 rounds to win the world bantamweight title on May 31, 1950 at the Wembley Stadium in Johannesburg. It was estimated that there were 20 000 spectators at the fight. At the time there were only eight world champions in eight recognised divisions.

The first White-Black mixed world title bout to be held in South Africa took place at the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg on December 1, 1973 with Bob Foster retaining the WBA and WBC light-heavyweight titles on a unanimous 15-round points decision over Pierre Fourie. The scores on the seven point must system at the time were 103-99, 103-95 and 101-98. Fourie only weighed in at 167 lbs (75.74 kg) when the light-heavyweight limit was 79.38 kg.

Laurie Stevens was the first South African boxer to win a British Empire title. On January 11, 1936 he outpointed Britain’s Jack Kid Berg over 12 rounds at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg for the vacant title. Stevens at one time also held the South African lightweight and welterweight titles. As an amateur he won a silver medal at the 1930 Empire Games and an Olympic gold medal in 1932.

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Ron Jackson II
Did you know?
Denis Adams never lost his Empire flyweight title in the ring. Adams lost the title on May 31 1961...