It's over for angel
ISAAC Hlatshwayo called time on his boxing career yesterday and took the emotional but long overdue decision to walk away after 13 years in the ring.
The 35-year-old gentle giant from Limpopo had been a professional boxer with huge success since 2000 and he said he began to entertain the decision to quit after Boxing SA board member Dr Peter Ngatane noted that he was unable to take a punch.
''I made it clear to him [Ngatane] that I needed to sit down and think about it. I believed that I could still do it but somehow felt I should take his advice - jah, it is over," an emotional Hlatshwayo said.
The news that Hlatshwayo had quit spread like wildfire recently but he vehemently denied those allegations at the time.
''People had been saying that I should quit and I would say yes, although I was still not sure if I was ready to make that call. I even spoke to Lovemore Ndou [who is based in Australia] and asked him to get me fights over there. He did not sound chuffed but promised to do something as he did in 2011."
Hlatshwayo was knocked out in round three by Ben Naoufel Rabeh for the vacant IBF Australasian welterweight title in New South Wales on July 20 2011.
''It is only now that I'm ready to make it known publicly that boxing is history to me. Boxing has been very good to me. I was a nobody and it made me a world champion," said the boxer from the dusty streets of Shisasi Village who won the IBF title in the US on August 9 2009.
''I will open my own gym and train young fighters."
He paid tribute to Eric Baloyi (Cassius Baloyi's father who trained Hlatshwayo in the amateur ranks); Manny Fernandez, who introduced him to the professional ranks, helping him to win the SA and IBO lightweight and IBO welterweight belts; Nick Durandt, who guided him to victory for the IBF title; promoters Rodney Berman and Branco Milenkovic; a horde of sparring partners as well as his fans.
The 2001 prospect of the year, nicknamed ''The Angel", showed how great he was when he outpointed Phillip "Time Bomb" Ndou over 12 rounds at Carnival City on May 22 2004. Hlatshwayo's points victory over Cassius "Hitman" Baloyi, also over 12 rounds in 2005, was confirmation that he had no opposition locally. His defeat of Nate Campbell in the US on April 6 2006 was testament to the world that a new boxing star from South Africa was born.
He won the IBF title in a rematch with Delvin Rodriguez in the US on August 1 2008, but he surrendered it via a third-round stoppage to Jan Zaveck at Wembley Arena on December 11 2009.
Hlatshwayo was never the same after that fight.. Defeat to Kaizer Mabuza, whom he had punished in 2003, was the final straw for the always supremely fit former world champion who had an impressive fight record of 30 wins (10 KOs) against six losses, a draw and no contest.