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Former boxing promoter Damian Michael dies from cancer

Boxing gloves are seen during a Media Workout at Matchroom Boxing Gym on November 07, 2019 in Brentwood, England.
Boxing gloves are seen during a Media Workout at Matchroom Boxing Gym on November 07, 2019 in Brentwood, England.
Image: Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Former boxing promoter Damian Michael, who brought world-renowned ring announcer Michael Buffer to South Africa to work an extravaganza that lost him $700,000, died after a months-long battle with cancer on Wednesday night. 

He was 42. 

Michael, a sevens rugby player for the Lions, first made his money in restaurants with ventures like Chefs In Motion and My Grill My Bar, registering a turnover of R24-million in a single year. He said in one night he once made R250,000. 

After being bought out by a hedge fund, he turned to boxing, starting up Showpony Promotions. 

But his stay in the hurt business was short-lived, albeit memorable. 

He started with a series of development tournaments before staging Frans Botha against Michael Grant for the marginal WBF’s vacant heavyweight title at Monte Casino in November 2011, bringing over the costly Buffer to announce the bout. 

That was one of five marginal world title bouts on the card. “I lost $700,000 announcing myself in the world of boxing,” Michael said afterwards. 

In March 2013 he promoted welterweight Chris van Heerden against Matthew Hatton, the brother of Ricky, in a tournament that cost R2-million at the Sandton convention centre.

Michael was also involved in getting Thabiso Mchunu’s shot against rated American Eddie Chambers in the US in 2013. 

“He tried to shake things up,” said Stephen Castle, a commentator, trainer and manager. “He gave opportunities to people who wouldn’t have got them otherwise.

“He helped a lot of people along the way.”

Trainer Sean Smith described Michael as generous, saying he would randomly help boxers by giving them accommodation and sometimes buying them leather jackets and designer belts. 

“He’s just the most dynamic person I’ve ever met. He had an incredible vision.”  

It was Michael who steered Mchunu to Smith's gym. 

Michael also possessed an outspoken manner that ruffled feathers, especially in a small industry like SA boxing.

“He was impatient and he didn’t take no for an answer,” explained Smith. “He was prepared to give everything and he wanted reciprocation. That was his way.”

At one stage in 2013 Michael suggested a co-promotion with Rodney Berman, to put on cruiserweight clash between Mchunu against Junior Makabu. 

Berman rejected his approach, saying Michael needed to bring more to the table than just one of the two fighters. 

When the fight finally happened two years later, ordered as an eliminator for the WBC title, Michael was a co-promoter. 

He emigrated to Austria after being diagnosed with cancer late last year, although he frequently commuted to SA. 

His sister was with him when he died, but his wife Alex and their two daughters were still in Austria, unable to travel because of the lockdown.