Mathebula makes history in unification bout
WHEN Jeffrey Mathebula fights Nonito Donaire tomorrow night in a junior featherweight unification bout, it will be like history repeating itself.
On December 13 1980 South Africa produced its first black world boxing champion in Peter "Terror" Mathebula.
He achieved that by defeating Tae Shik Kim over 15 rounds for the WBA flyweight belt. That historic moment for Mathebula and South Africa took place at Olympic auditorium, Los Angeles, California. Mathebula's reign was short-lived. He lost the title three months later to Santos Laciar. But the victory over Tae Shik Kim was etched in the annals of South African boxing history. For the record the former world champion from Mohlakeng, Randfontein, turned 50 on Wednesday. Many local boxers followed in Mathebula's footsteps. Dingaan "The Rose of Soweto" Thobela was the first to win the WBO belt in 1990. Six years later Thulani "Sugarboy" Malinga also became the first WBC champion from South Africa, while Cassius "Hitman" Baloyi and others won even more than one world belt in different weight divisions.
But no local boxer has ever been involved in a unification bout. It will be the first time that Jeffrey "The Mongoose" Mathebula, no relation to Peter, is involved in a match of this stature. Mathebula holds the IBF title while Donaire is the WBO champion. Their junior featherweight unification bout will take place at Home Depot Centre, California. Mathebula, trainer Nick Durandt and his assistants have been in LA since last Saturday. The fight [on Sunday morning SA time] will be staged by US promoter Bob Arum, with whom Mathebula's promoter Branco Milenkovic struck a deal.
Boxing SA director of operations Loyiso Mtya said: "To be able to land such a fight is a landmark for SA. What Branco has done is a big punch for this country. Imagine a victory for Mathebula."