2007 promises fight fans thrills and spills

Bongani Magasela

Bongani Magasela

The year 2006 was not bad at all for South African boxing.

It could be a springboard to an outstanding 2007, which promises to deliver thrills and chills.

Rodney Berman has already announced a star-studded bill for Emperors Palace on February 3.

Branco Milenkovic has threatened to go back home to Yugoslavia if he fails in his bid to promote the IBF fight between Malcolm Klassen and Mzonke Fana in Khayelitsha.

He staged a five-bout international championship at Wembley Arena, featuring four WBC International and a WBA Intercontinental clash.

Dingaan Thobela almost lost his life to thugs who shot at him through the bullet-proof window of his car at the gates of his house.

Thobela was unable to go to the gym for his fight with Soon Botes, and looked like a sumo wrestler. Thobela retired on his chair going for the tenth round.

Gabula Vabaza failed his medical test on the eve of an IBF junior featherweight title fight with Canadian Steve Molitor.

Hawk Makepula and Mhikiza Myekeni's dreams of becoming world champions were once again shattered.

Makepula succumbed to Jorge Arce's power in four rounds, while Myekeni performed above himself but still could not win the WBC flyweight belt from Pongsaklek Wonjongkam.

Isaac Hlatswayo and Silence Mabuza flopped. Mabuza failed twice to win the IBF title from Rafael Marquez, while Hlatswayo fumbled against Kendall Holt for the WBO North American Boxing Organisation (Nabo) title on November 3.

Vodacom and BSA parted ways. Krish Naidoo was suspended by the board of BSA for making crucial decisions without their consent.

Loyiso Mtya, who was employed as the public relations officer, took over. He did well with the second edition of the Baby Champs development series but came under a barrage of verbal blows from licensees who accused him of favouring S'Phatho Handi.

Mtya was also criticised heavily for his undying support to Joe Manyathi who brought Laila Ali to the country for a match that did not happen.

Those are some of the few lows in 2006.

The highs included brutal but thrilling local shootouts that made boxing rings look like abattoirs - that is the thrill of the noble art of boxing.

Takalani Ndlovu and Thomas Mashaba retained their IBO belts after defeating highly regarded opponents.

But it was Cassius Baloyi who set the precedence by winning the IBF title in May. He was dethroned three months later by Gairy St Clair.

Still Baloyi ended the year the way he started it - on the outside looking in, hoping for chance to win his fifth world title.

Malcolm Klassen did the shuffle in the junior lightweight division when he ended St Clair's reign. Klassen caused the upset of 2006.

His trainer, Manny Fernandez, did not give Klassen even the slightest of chances of victory. He showed that by opting to go to the US with Hlatswayo, leaving Klassen with his assistant.

Takalani Ndlovu, who was impressive in chalking up two defences abroad, will challenge Steve Molitor early next year.

Thomas Mashaba, who demolished Oscar Leon in three rounds, set himself up for a fight with WBA champion Chris John.

Rising star Tshifiwa Munyai rewrote history books. He was voted by the hard-to-please British Boxing Commission as the best international fighter of 2006.

Munyai was also presented with the inaugural Danny Mancini Award.

Tragedy also struck boxing. Long-serving administrator Ken Ramaboa died in a car accident. Tally "Green Mamba" Disoloane failed to recover from a coma after being stopped by Thompson Mokwana in five rounds on October 1.

May their souls rest in peace.