Luzipho, a soulful lovable champion

MVELELI Luzipho, son of a lay preacher and a domestic worker, burst into the world of professional boxing in 1981.

He was part of a motley group of brilliant amateur boxers who hailed from the famous Modern Boxing Club of yesteryear.

This group included some of this country's most illustrious boxing sons: Thami Sogcwe, Jackie Ndaliso, Lindile Yam, Welcome Ncita, the brothers Bungu and a host of other talented youngsters.

This famous boxing club was the brainchild of late, legendary bantamweight champion Mazukisi Wonderboy Skweyiya. Wonderboy then skipped the country into exile.

Boyce Zitumane, boxing promoter extraordinaire, had since taken over as manager.

Post-1976 the socioeconomic fabric of South Africa had undergone an irreversible metamorphosis. By and large sport had become the bridgehead of the wholesome endeavour to bring about the total transformation of the South African body politic.

It was in this milieu that the baby-faced whirlwind made his pro debut. Boxing, in particular, carried the hopes and aspirations of the majority.

Wonderboy's total immersion in the struggles of the day heightened this expectation. Indeed, in more ways than one he was the spiritual guru at the club.

The early 80s heralded a precipitous decline in the fortunes of the internationally renowned Modern Boxing Promotions. Consequently Boyce's eaglets migrated to the newly established Eyethu Boxing Club, under the astute management of the iconic Mzimasi Mnguni.

Mnguni's first project was to reclaim the national junior flyweight diadem that the champion had recently lost to the irrepressible Baby Jake Matlala.

The return fight at the celebrated Orlando Stadium remains firmly etched in the annals of South African boxing. Luzipho reclaimed the title after 12 rounds of scintillating championship boxing.

For 10 momentous years, Luzipho ruled the roost as the brightest star in the South African boxing firmament. His titanic battles with excellent boxers - Jake Matlala, Mlungwana Mgxaji, Odwa Mdleleni and Vuyani Nene - catapulted him into the country's Hall of Fame. He featured prominently in the international boxing circuit. He was an immensely gifted champion who could switch from an orthodox to an unorthodox stance with consummate ease.

Perhaps Luzipho's legacy is to be found deeply immersed in the fabled successes of the international brand, Eyethu Boxing Club after hanging up his gloves. He reinforced the technical team at Eyethu. He contributed immensely to the successes of the brood Vuyani Bungu, Welcome Ncita, Hawk Makepula, Mbulelo Botile, and every other champion or contender at Eyethu went through his steady hands.

He crisscrossed the world learning from top technocrats like Luther Burgess. He developed a symbiotic relationship with Bhaba Stotts.

Mzi Mnguni regales with stories of Luzipho and Stotts walking, singing and sleeping in hotel foyers in the wee hours of the morning.

Boxing is all Mveleli ever knew. He was a perfect foil for his boss, Mzi Mnguni, who can be abrasive and an uncompromising at times. Mveleli would always find it easy to mingle with the boys.

If it is true that Happy Boy Mgxaji remains East London's most illustrious sportsman, Luzipho is by far East London's most romantic and soulful champion. Thank you, for bringing poetry and music to boxing In my inward eye, I can still see you romancing the pads, shouting orders, smiling and teasing the Hawk. The Hawk responded with rhythmic combinations and staccato jabs.

Your life was a fine example to all of us Thank you for the wonderful memories You will be missed.