The day the ‘Rose of Soweto’ took the WBC’s super middleweight belt

It was the first time the green and gold belt was won on African soil

Dingaan Thobela stopped Glenn Catley in the 12th and final round to lift the WBC title at Carnival City.
Dingaan Thobela stopped Glenn Catley in the 12th and final round to lift the WBC title at Carnival City.
Image: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images

On this day, 23 years ago, the supposedly wilting Rose of Soweto Dingaan Thobela bloomed when he was crowned WBC super middleweight champion.

He won the most sought after green and gold belt at the packed Big Top Arena in Carnival City Casino in Brakpan on September 1 2000.

This day is celebrated here as Spring Day. In many townships, children celebrate it by splashing each other with water. 

Trainer Elias Tshabalala splashed Thobela with water for 11 rounds during the fight, keeping the sleeping giant of SA boxing wide awake in what was a battle of supremacy between Africa and Europe, and the rose produced flowers.

Thobelas victory against Glen Catley for the WBC super middleweight belt made him the first local boxer to win it on African soil.

Thobela was behind on judges scores and he needed a knockdown to dethrone the Englishman in his first title defence.

Thobelas trademark right uppercut on the jaw dropped Catley on his pants. He got up but disoriented and Thobela a smart finisher did just that in 2:53 seconds in the 12th and final round.

His insatiable appetite for good food impacted negatively to Thobelas weight, which ballooned from junior lightweight (61,24kg ) to super middleweight (76,20kg).

Thobela was taken as a stepping stone for the Englishman by local promoter Rodney Berman who promoted Catley. Berman was even not sure if Thobela would make the weight limit because at one point he was 10kg over the required limit for the IBO welterweight (66,68kg) belt. 

But he won the title nonetheless, though he was not crowned because of his failure to make the weight limit.

Thobela knew that it was his first and probably last opportunity to fight for the WBC belt, which was previously held by Thulani Sugar Boy Malinga.

Thobela lost his belt in his first defence in 2001, and lost his next six fights, until he eventually retired in 2006 with a record of 40 wins, 26 by knockout, 14 losses and two draws.

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