How 'Terror' scored a KO for black boxing

World champion Peter 'Terror' Mathebula
World champion Peter 'Terror' Mathebula

Today marks 38 years since South Africa produced its first black boxing world champion in Peter "Terror" Mathebula.

The former SA flyweight champion from Mohlakeng won the WBA title after dethroning Korean Tae Shik Kim via a split points decision over 15 rounds in Los Angeles on December 13 1980.

"Virtually all sides in this starkly divided country, with exception of a fringe of black political activists, claimed him proudly as their own," the New York Times reported at the time.

"Even the Afrikaans language press proclaimed Mathebula excitedly 'Ons Wereldkampioen - Our World Champion', following his success."

"Local boxing writers laid down a barrage of training-camp bulletins pointing to the invincibility of the champion, just as they had done when they picked two home-grown heavyweights Kallie Knoetze and Gerrie Coetzee to flatten John Tate and Mike Weaver, respectively, in WBA title bouts here [in the US," the Times article continued.

"When Knoetze and Coetzee both faded before unbelieving eyes of their Afrikaner fans, the black townships rejoiced riotously over the victories of the two black Americans."

Mathebula then signed for his defence against Argentinian Santos Laciar.

There was political talk that Mathebula's title defence would legitimise the apartheid regime. SA experienced international isolation and a cultural boycott.

Azapo, the South African Nonracial Olympic Committee and the UN were at the forefront of this boycott.

Even though Mathebula was the darling of South Africans, he succumbed to a TKO in round seven at Orlando Stadium.

Mathebula hung up his gloves in 1983 with a record of 36 wins, 17 knockouts and nine losses. At 66 he still lives in the same house with wife Emma.

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