MVELELI Luzipho has died.

MVELELI Luzipho has died.

The legendary Mdantsane fighter, a former Cape Town provincial and South African junior flyweight champion, died of natural causes yesterday morning.

His boss at Eyethu Boxing Gym in Mdantsane, promoter Mzimasi Mnguni, revealed yesterday that Luzipho, 43, had been ill for a long time.

"But we realised two weeks ago that he was not well and I advised him to take days off from the gym. He never came back," a distraught Mnguni said yesterday.

Mnguni, then a trainer, produced his first national champion in Luzipho when he defeated Jacob "Baby Jake" Matlala on points at Orlando Stadium in October 1983. Luzipho retired four years later after losing to Andrew Matyila for the Cape Town provincial flyweight belt. He became a trainer at Mnguni's gym.

Some of the top fighters that he trained with Welsh Mnguni, Mzimasi's nephew who died about two years ago, include Welcome Ncita, Vuyani Bungu, Masibulele Makepula and Zolile Mbityi.

The soft-spoken Luzipho was to man Nkqubela Gwazela's corner on Saturday night when he challenges SA bantamweight champion Klaas Mboyane at Orient Theatre.

Mnguni said it was a pity that he could not postpone the tournament. Lunga Sikhonyela will be in Gwazela's corner.

Luzipho's wife died six years ago. Their sons Simphindile and Mbulelo are professional boxers.

Matlala, who boasts a win against two losses to Luzipho, said: "The sport is poorer for his death. May his soul rest in peace."

Boxing SA acting CEO Loyiso Mtya said: "Luzipho worked hard to popularise boxing in the Eastern Cape. He will be missed."