Peter Mathebula's son remembers his father: 'My father was everything to me‚ my best friend'

21 January 2020 - 11:00
By Bongani Magasela
File photo of Peter Mathebula of South Africa, Santos Laciar of Argentina during the bout in Soweto, South Africa.
Image: Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images File photo of Peter Mathebula of South Africa, Santos Laciar of Argentina during the bout in Soweto, South Africa.

Boxing icon Peter "Terror" Mathebula's passing has left a deep scar on his son.

Mathebula died on Saturday at the age of 67 and was the first South African of any colour to lift a crown fighting overseas‚ beating Korean Tae-Shik Kim on a split decision over 15 rounds in Los Angeles in December 1980 to claim the WBA flyweight title.

His only son Patrick said he had lost his best friend.

"We had to accept his passing because he was ill‚" Patrick said.

"I mean‚ to see him lying in that bed at Leratong Hospital where he spent two weeks was not a good scene at all.

"Look‚ my father was everything to me‚ my best friend.

"We had a very good relationship and he was a very humble man."

The 47-year-old Patrick Mathebula is a former professional boxer himself and his career began at home in Mohlakeng‚ Randfontein‚ where his famous father honed his skills at an early age.

He shed a tear as he reminisced about the sweet memories he had of his father.

"He always advised me to do things my way and he was always supportive‚" he said.

"I am heartbroken.

"He was full of jokes‚" he said with a smile.

"He would give me tips as to how to position myself in front of an opponent before I can even swing a punch."

The younger Mathebula's amateur trainer was namesake Patrick Thobega‚ but he later left him and joined veteran trainer Joe Bowker.

He would then team up with Willie Locke‚ the man who was in the corner when his father Peter ended the reign of Shik-Kim via a points decision to win the WBA flyweight title.

"Everything my father taught me as a fighter was on point‚ even though I did not reach my fullest potential as a fighter‚" he said.

"My father attended some of my fights.

"A loss would affect him more than it did to me.

"He would spend a day without talking about my fight until the next day.

"He would start discussing what I should have done during the fight."

Observers could argue that the Mathebula name was a weight on Patrick's shoulders and he was rushed onto the big stage instead of being introduced cautiously into the ring.

"My trainer (Locke) did not want my father's interference‚ so he was in total control of my career.

"I will forever remember my father for his ability to push even when the going was getting tough‚" said Patrick‚ who has teamed up with former pro boxer Pule Mahloko in honing the skills of young boxers.

Mathebula senior told Sowetan in 2012 that he thought he was dreaming when he won the world title.

He said at the time the reality of him being the first black South African world champion did not sink in immediately.

"I did not believe that I beat an incredible boxer like Tae-Shik Kim‚" he said at the time.

"I won on a split decision and you can imagine my anxiety before the final announcement.

"But I remained hopeful about my chances because I believed I did enough to convince the judges.

"When the ring announcer paused a bit before making the final verdict‚ I nearly stopped breathing.

"But seconds later the announcer screamed 'and the new WBA flyweight champion of the world‚ Peter Terroooooor Mathebulaaaaaa!'

"I nearly collapsed with joy. It was unbelievable."

Peter‚ who revealed that he was paid $7500 dollars in that fight‚ lost in his first defence to Argentinian Santos Laciar at Orlando Stadium in 1981.

Mathebula finally quit boxing after winning his last fight‚ a 10th round TKO of Jacob "Killer" Molefe in Sebokeng on August 12 1982.

He said he was 31 years old when he quit.

"You guys from The Sowetan were starting to poke fun at me - you called me madala (old timer).

"But I wanted to quit on a high considering that my win over Killer was the third in a row."

Peter‚ who fought many old times greats‚ including Johannes Sithebe and Welile Nkosinkulu‚ chalked up 36 wins with 17 knockouts against nine losses.

Funeral arrangements are yet to be confirmed.