Boxing mourns Bro Mzi, ‘the first to produce a world champ in Mdantsane’

Mzimasi Mnguni receives BSA's lifetime achievement award in Port Elizabeth in February 2018. File photo
Mzimasi Mnguni receives BSA's lifetime achievement award in Port Elizabeth in February 2018. File photo
Image: Nick Lourens/ SowetanLIVE

The mecca of SA boxing, Mdantsane, is today mourning the death of world-renowned promoter, trainer and manager Mzimasi ‘Bro Mzi’ ‘Mnguni.

Mnguni, a legendary boxing trainer and promoter, died aged 73 on Saturday  morning. Popularly known as Planga in Eastern Cape boxing circles, Mnguni died at Life Beacon Bay Hospital in East London after a long illness.

In a statement, Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane said the provincial government had learnt with sadness and shock of Mnguni's death.

The Alice-born Mnguni fell in love with boxing in the late 1970s after spending years working in Johannesburg and produced a number of world champions like Welcome Ncita, Vuyani Bungu, Zolani Petelo, Mbulelo Botile, Masibulele Makepula, and many SA champions

“We wish those close to him, especially his family, boxers he promoted and supported to global stardom, strength and fortitude as we all mourn the passing of this great legend,” Mabuyane said in the statement.

Mabuyane said Mnguni played a pivotal role in the development of boxing in the country and made his name in the sport when he joined the popular Eyethu Boxing Club in Mdantsane, producing many world beaters.

“Mnguni invested time, energy and wisdom in developing boxers in our province from his Eyethu boxing Club in Mdantsane where he first came on board as a sponsor of boxers and later he mentored different generations of boxers into national and world champions.”

Mabuyane said Mnguni’s love and commitment to the sport saw him mentor young boxers who came from poor families in the Eastern Cape and other provinces to win belts recognised by world-sanctioning bodies.

“While his passing is the last round of the main bout of his life, Mnguni’s legacy and contribution in boxing is an ever-fixed mark in the boxing world — the lives of scores of boxers he mentored. We have a moral duty to keep on supporting boxing so that our province can regain its position as the home of boxing champions,” he said.

“This can be accomplished through resourcing boxing development in our province by both government and private sector so that our boxers don’t leave the province for greener pastures in other provinces.”

Veteran boxing promoter Rodney Berman from Golden Gloves told a local website that: “This is a very sad loss. He was a genius in boxing. I don’t think his achievements were ever really recognised. For me he will be sorely missed.”

The Golden Gloves boss’s working relationship with Mnguni spanned more than three decades. According to Berman, his biggest night of working with Mnguni was in March 1990 in Tel Aviv, Israel, when Ncita defeated Spain-born Frenchman Fabrice Benichou to have the International Boxing Federation (IBF) belt strapped around his waist.

Mnguni received a Lifetime Achievement Award from former minister of sport Fikile Mbalula at the 2016 SA Boxing Awards ceremony in Durban.

Former promoter and boxing enthusiast Andile Sidinile said Mnguni never thought of himself as someone who would change the sport of boxing when he came back to settle in East London from Johannesburg.

Sidinile said Mnguni was approached by a group of young boys from NU 10 in Mdantsane, who wanted him to support them in their boxing gym.

“As the hands-on person he was, he poured his money and time into making sure it became a success. That was the start of the change in township boxing,” Sidinile said.

“He was the first ever to produce a world champion in Mdantsane, he was the first to take Mdantsane boxers to fight under the big lights all over the World.

“A very bad loser he was — he couldn't accept that Mveleli Luzipho would lose to the late Baby Jake Matlala. He poured his money into organising a rematch.”

Sidinile said since Mnguni’s retirement from boxing because of ill-health Mdantsane had struggled to produce fighters of the calibre he did. “Many people don’t know that he was not only a manager and a promoter, he was a very good trainer with a sharp eye for the weaknesses of an opponent.”

RAP promotions CEO Nomfesane Nyathela said Mnguni inspired her to be a promoter.

“Bra Mzi opened up so many doors for young boxers who had no hope but their talent and hunger for success. He travelled the country and the world creating a bridge and a platform for many boxers to showcase their talent in the biggest stage never imagined,” Nyathela said.