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Boxing | South Africa

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South African boxing books and magazines

South Africa has an illustrious boxing history, but only a handful of books have been written by South Africans about boxing in South Africa.

The first book, if you can call it a book, was really a booklet: "A South African Boxer in Britain – Experiences of Andrew Jeptha" (1910). Jeptha, who was on hard times and blind, sold the thin booklet at a price of one shilling on the streets of Cape Town. The only known original copies are housed in the South African library in Cape Town.

Topsy Smith wrote two books (in Afrikaans) in the forties, but one was a collection of sports stories which included boxing, as did the book written by A.C.Parker in 1963.

Chris Greyvenstein stands out as the best author of boxing books, with "This Brutal Glory" (1957) and "Bloody Noses and Cracked Crowns" (1969).

His masterpiece was, however, "The Fighters” published in 1981. This is a history of South African boxing and tells the dramatic story of professional boxing from the days of the first big fight in South Africa between James Couper and Woolf Bendoff, and is considered as one of the best boxing books ever written.

Very little has been written on black boxers, but Benny Singh made some contribution with his two books, "My Baby and Me" (1949), and "My Champions were Dark" (1963).

Bert Blewett wrote a book, "The A-Z of World Boxing" (1996), but this does not cover any South African boxing. Donald McRae, who was born in Germiston but now resides in England, wrote two excellent books, “Dark Trade” (1996) and “In Black and White” (2002). Both these books won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award.

In recent years we have had "Dancing Shoes is Dead" (2002) by Gavin Evans, which is more of a story on Evans' political activities than on boxing. Gavin, who is an outstanding writer, has also written four books on boxing which includes the excellent "Kings of the Ring".

"Baby Jake – The Legend" (2002) by Theo Mthembu and Jack Blades does not really do justice to the outstanding career of Matlala.


Boxing magazines have never been a paying proposition in South Africa, with very few surviving for any length of time.

However, "South African Boxing World", which later changed its name to "Boxing World", was first launched in July 1976 and survived for a long period, with Chip Wilson the editor for the first year until Bert Blewett took over in August 1977. Under his editorship the magazine was proud of its independence for 29 years.

However, in September 2004 Peter Leopeng took over as editor, but the magazine ceased publication in October 2005.

The first boxing magazine to be published in South Africa was in December 1946, named "Fight", under the editorship of Sam Sterling. The paper was cheap and the pictures printed in the magazine were of a poor quality, but it served the boxing fans at the time until it ceased publication in December 1953.

In October 1955 Hank Margolies edited the "Fight" magazine once again, but it stopped publication in May 1957.

A magazine called "The African Ring", which described itself as a “Monthly Magazine for All non-European Professional and Amateur Boxers” appeared in the bookshops in November 1949 under the editorship of S. McWells Maoela and Elias Abrahams. Unfortunately, there were only a few issues before it ceased publication.

In 1952 to 1953 Leonard Neill edited three issues of a magazine called "Boxing Roundup". Leonard couldn’t stay away from boxing magazines and in 1972 was editor of "Boxing and Wrestling", which devoted one half of the magazine to white boxing and the other half to black boxing, which was a divided sport in those days of apartheid.

In July 1953 a magazine called "African Sports", an all-sports magazine which devoted large sections to boxing, appeared on the news-stands, but only lasted for a couple of years.

Other magazines have come and gone over the years like "Knockout" from 1974 to 1976, edited by Reg Haswell, which was a good publication.

"Ringside" only lasted from April 1975 to October 1975, like "Boxing Beat", which went from December 1977 to April 1979. Some other magazines which appeared on the scene included a bilingual magazine called "Attack/Val Aan", which produced about three issues in 1980, and "Knockout" (1994), "Fight" (1964) and "Jab" (1986), which had only one issue each.

In the latter part of the 1980’s Terry Pettifer was the editor of a newspaper, "Boxing Express", which published a few issues.

Against the odds, Jeff Ellis, a former fighter, trainer, manager and promoter, launched the "African Ring" magazine in April 2005 and managed to keep it going into 2014.


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