White boxer who broke racial barriers

'He was very clever and scientific'

21 May 2021 - 09:41
By bongani magasela AND Bongani Magasela
Pierre Fourie in action against Baby Boy Rolie at Rand Stadium, Johannesburg in 1974.
Image: Supplied Pierre Fourie in action against Baby Boy Rolie at Rand Stadium, Johannesburg in 1974.

It's been 41 years since unheralded SA middleweight and light heavyweight champion Pierre Fourie passed away but memories of this great fighter and a scientific boxer will live forever.

He was born on June 26 1943 and died in 1980 few days before his 37th birthday, in a motor vehicle accident in Roodepoort, on the West Rand. Having fought his first pro fight in 1966, he retired after being knocked out in the attempt to win the heavyweight belt by Gerrie Coetzee in 1977.

Fourie chalked up 52 wins in 60 fights. He was recorded as the first white South African boxer to fight against a black opponent in the country. That was in 1973 when he lost to Bob Forster for the WBC and WBA light heavyweight titles at Rand Stadium on December 1. Inter-racial fights were banned in SA until 1973 by Dr Piet Koornhof who was appointed as a minister of sport in 1972 by the apartheid government.

Most respected legendary boxing writer and historian Ron Jackson said the Proclamation R2173 was significant because it allowed the minister to approve any departure from some or all of the provisions of this regulation in the case of a world title bout, or an internationally recognised final eliminating contest for a world title.

Forster from Albuquerque, Mexico, in the USA, had previously defeated the South African in their first fight in Mexico on August 21 1973. The fearless tough-as-nails fighter – who was trained by Alan Toweel Senior – also fought one of the revered old-time great world champion - Victor “The Animal” Galindez twice in 1975 - at Ellis Park Stadium on April 7 and Rand Stadium on September 13.

Fourie lost those two fights against the WBA light heavyweight champion from Argentina who is best remembered for his bloody fight against American Ritchie Kates in Italy on June 16 1977.

SA’s referee Stan Christodoulou was the third man in the ring. That fight ended in the 15th round when Galindez, with a river of blood streaming down his face from a gash over his right eye which he sustained in the fourth round, knocked out Kates to retain his title. Galindez used Christodoulou’s shirt during the rounds to wipe blood which was blocking his view.

It is thus fitting to pay tribute to Fourie, who went the full 15 rounds distance with “The Animal” to eventually lose by a close split points decision. Fourie won the middleweight in 1968 and defended four times before capturing the light heavyweight belt in 1972 and defended it against Sarel Aucamp who Fourie had defeated for the then vacant belt.

Jackson, who saw Fourie’s fights, described him as a great fighter. “He was very clever and scientific; he grew up hard but could look after himself in the ring. To me, he was not a light heavyweight but a super middleweight. I went to his funeral; it was so sad. He is without a doubt one of our best champion. He did not have a big punch but he was very strong,” said Jackson.