Thulani Malinga's WBC belt was not original one

Roy Jones jnr (right) with Jodi Solomon (centre) and Thulani Sugarboy Malinga at the launch of the Roy Jones Jr and Jodi Solomon Boxing gym in Craighall, Johannesburg.
Roy Jones jnr (right) with Jodi Solomon (centre) and Thulani Sugarboy Malinga at the launch of the Roy Jones Jr and Jodi Solomon Boxing gym in Craighall, Johannesburg.
Image: Christo Smith

Uninformed individuals unfairly attacked us for an article published last week regarding the history of the WBC belt.

They accused us of omitting Thulani Malinga, who was the first local boxer to win the WBC belt when he dethroned Nigel Benn as the super-middleweight champion in the UK in 1996.

It was disturbing that some of the criticism came from renowned boxing personalities you would expect to know better.

The positive, though, is that Jose Sulaiman jnr, the WBC president, thanked the people's paper for a wonderful report.

To put matters into perspective, Malinga, who was trained by Nick Durandt and Elias Tshabalala, was indeed the first South African to win it.

That was the slightly smaller WBC belt but it was more beautiful than the original one, which was a black leather or satin belt with a silver medallion that had the weight division written on it.

There was another belt late in the 1970s with the Adidas logo on it.

But champions of the 1980s and 1990s - that includes Malinga - won the newer one with the gold- plated WBC medallion, supported by side panels with images of Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis and some of the greatest champions of all time.

The Mexico-based organisation then launched what it termed the WBC belts of the 21st century in 2000.

These were larger and modified and had four side panels featuring the images of greats such as Ali and Jose Sulaiman snr (who died in 2014).

That belt also has the South African flag among the 167 member countries that are represented in that organisation.

Dingaan Thobela was the first to win it after ending the reign of Glen Catley as the super-middleweight champion at Carnival City in Brakpan on September 1 2000.

This fact was stipulated in the article Sowetan printed last week.

But clearly some people either ignored it or perhaps did not see the remarkable difference between these belts.

I felt obliged to explain it thoroughly for them to see that South Africans have done wonders in making sure that their country gets such a recognition from the WBC.

The history between Africa and the WBC actually began in 1963 when Nigerian Richard Ihetu (later known as Dick Tiger) won the middleweight belt.

He was the first African fighter ever to do so. Ihetu was the WBA champion when he captured the WBC belt against Gene Fulmer in Ibadan, Nigeria, on August 10 1963.

Then Ghanaian David Kotei won the featherweight title in September 1975 with his countryman Azumah Nelson winning the remodelled belt in two weight divisions - the featherweight title from 1984 to 1987 and the junior-lightweight belt twice between 1998 and 1997.

Malinga was well over 40 years old when he dethroned Benn who, after losing his belt, invited his girlfriend into the ring and went down on one knee and proposed to her.

Thobela then captured the modified belt in 2000.

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