Vabaza joins celestial greats

Gabula Vabaza pummels one of his many victims who became canon fodder to the polished pugilist. Vabaza had a heart attack while watching television at home on Tuesday./ VELI NHLAPO
Gabula Vabaza pummels one of his many victims who became canon fodder to the polished pugilist. Vabaza had a heart attack while watching television at home on Tuesday./ VELI NHLAPO

A rare diamond to find but easy to polish for all to appreciate its natural glitter.

That is how best to describe late pugilist Gabula Vabaza.

He was fondly named "Slashing Tiger" by genuine boxing people who appreciated and admired his manner in which he stealthily tore into his unsuspecting opponents during boxing matches.

The colourful ex-SA flyweight and WBU junior bantamweight title holder, who retired undefeated in 24 fights, is no more. His death was confirmed on Tuesday afternoon.

His aunt, multiple award-winning boxing referee and judge Siya Vabaza-Booi, said he had a heart attack while watching television at home.

Gabula, one of the few boxers who was able to use the awkwardness of being a left-hander to the best of his ability, fought his first professional fight in 1996.

The boxer from Duncan Village, Eastern Cape, who spent some time with trainer Koko Qebeyi before teaming up with Welcome Ncita, quickly showed his potential by winning an SA title in his 11th fight in 1999.

After three defences, the revered Vabaza met vastly experienced Zolile "Bonecrusher" Mbityi at Orient Theatre in 2001.

Mind you, Mbityi had previously fought big-name opponents who included Jacob Matlala, Vuyani Nene, Daniel Ward, Alberto Jiminez and Peter Culshaw. Mbityi had already held the SA and the IBO flyweight belts.

Their epic battle at a packed Orient Theatre was declared a draw. Mbityi, in his own words, said it was a bonus for Vabaza to stand in front of him. For that, Mbityi said he had high hopes of his foe.

Sadly, Vabaza's career was cut short in 2006 when he failed medicals for the IBF junior featherweight title against Canadian Steve Molitor, which was to be staged by top promoter Branco Milenkovic at Nasrec Arena.

Like all of us who followed Vabaza's rise, Milenkovic was sure of victory, which would have opened doors for Vabaza around the globe. Already, he was buzzing and the WBC, WBA and WBO were watching him closely.

With internationally respected and well-known Milenkovic, Vabaza was destined for greater heights. Sadly, he was gone - as a boxer - too soon.

He is also gone as a human being - too soon. But the loving boxing fraternity will forever remember him for what he stood for in this beautiful fisticuffs sport, which is referred to by wordsmiths as the "Sweet Science".

Vabaza has joined the likes of Arthur Mayisela, Jacob Morake, Brian Baronet, Joe Gumede, Anthony Morodi, Willie Toweel, Mzukisi Sikali, Matlala, Nick Durandt and Corrie Sanders who have departed this world.

Vabaza, who celebrated his 40th birthday on March 23, is survived by four children, his grandmother, two aunts and three uncles.

Vabaza will be buried in East London next week.

Take a deserved rest "Tiger", for you ran your race with great aplomb.

Born: August 23 1978

Died: November 11 2018

Funeral: Next week in East London, Eastern Cape

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