Let's celebrate our living legends in our boxing heritage month – BSA boss

Veteran Bungu won world title in new SA in August

03 August 2021 - 09:30
By bongani magasela AND Bongani Magasela
Former IBF junior featherweight champion Vuyani Bungu defended his title 13 times.
Image: Sowetan Former IBF junior featherweight champion Vuyani Bungu defended his title 13 times.

SA celebrates August 9, which is recognised as Women’s Day due to what some 20,000 iconic women did on this day in 1956.

They risked their lives by marching to the Union Buildings to petition against the country’s pass laws. Acting in such a way against that vicious government was suicidal, but they did it because they were prepared to die for a just cause. They achieved their goal and that very apartheid government eventually declared that day Women's Day, and it is for their bravery and resilience that women are celebrated throughout the month here.

How about extending that patriotism to few men who became world boxing champions during this month. One such boxer is Vuyani “The Beast” Bungu, who won the IBF junior featherweight boxing belt to become the first black South African to win a world title under the democratically elected government.

Bungu, trained by iconic Mzimasi Mnguni in Mdantsane – dethroned revered American Kennedy McKinney in front of 5,000 exhilarated fans inside a marquee that was erected next to the Carousel Resort in Hammanskraal on August 20 in 1994.

That fight – staged by Golden Gloves of Rodney Berman and Cedric Kushner – was named 1994 Ring Magazine Upset of the Year. Bungu defended that title 13 times before relinquishing it in 2000. That record is yet to be broken.

Bungu’s big win against the 1998 Summer Olympics gold medallist was the first IBF fight to take place in these shores and he was the first black world champion under the democratically elected government.

Boxing SA chairperson Luthando Jack said he fully supported the suggestion. “What our sisters, wives, mothers and grandmothers did in 1956 can't compare to anything and that is why it is in the national calendar as part of our heritage,” he said.

“Boxing must reclaim itself as an important sport in the country and that is why we have embarked on a number of projects in that regard, so that the sport celebrates its own.

“We have approached the department of sport towards working on reclaiming boxing heritage and have it recognised. We also want to work together with the National Heritage Council to forge ways of making sure that boxing be at the centre of celebrations. The sport has got to celebrate living legends like Vuyani Bungu when they are still alive.”

There is a number of local boxers who became world champions from various world sanctioning bodies during August month. They are Phillip Holiday, Gary Murray, Patrick Quka, Mzukisi Sikali, Simon Ramoni, Isaac Hlatshwayo, Ludumo Galada, Bongani Mwelase, Lovemore Ndou and Malcolm Klassen.

Holiday won the IBF lightweight belt on August 19 1995, Quka won the WBU bantamweight belt on August 2 1997, Ramoni became the first IBO champ from SA when he won the bantamweight title on August 8 1998, Ndou, a former IBF junior welterweight and IBO welterweight titlist, added the WBF welterweight belt in his collection on August 10 2012 while former IBF junior lightweight champion Klassen captured the IBO strap – his second – on August 5 2016.