Boxing fraternity mourns Joseph Makaringe

‘Tough -as- nails’ Joe served the sport with dignity

Joseph ‘Smokin Joe’ Makaringe.
Joseph ‘Smokin Joe’ Makaringe.
Image: Getty Images

Winning the International Boxing Organisation (IBO) welterweight belt was an achievement for Isaac Hlatshwayo, especially, by defeating tough-as-nails heavy handed slugger Joseph Makaringe.

That accomplishment made Hlatshwayo a two-weight world champion. He had previously held the same organisation's lightweight belt.

But the win over Makaringe came with stresses of its own, accusation of ending the career of his former stable mate in the amateur ranks etc.

That was because the former SA champ retired at that boxing match in 2007 with 30 wins and four losses. That defeat was Makaringe's only second one by a South African, the first being to Jan Bergman, in 2001.

Makaringe's humility turned him a go-to person for most of the boxers who came from Limpopo and settled in Johannesburg. 

After learning about Makaringe's poor health last year, Hlatshwayo visited Makaringe at home in Giyani and the man who successfully defended the national title 10 times did what he was known for – played chess matches with Hlatshwayo, which he mastered.

In a way, Hlatshwayo was looking for closure to what was bugging him for many years. "We enjoyed our company for two hours and Joe was in his element making jokes," said the boxer, who went on to win the IBF belt in 2009.

But the news on Thursday that "Smokin' Joe" from Giyani is no more and he passed on at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg hit him hard. "At first I refused to believe because the last time I checked Joe was at home. I made some calls and it was confirmed that Joe was gone; it is hard to believe."

"You know I was disturbed when I heard that Joe was retiring after our fight; I wanted to give him time and then persuade him to reconsider his decision but I got busy and somehow paid attention to my career.

"We trained together as amateurs; Joe was a selfless someone and he was glue to all of us from Limpopo. He was full of jokes but in the ring he was a real warrior. Joe served the sport with dignity."

One of Makaringe's 30th victim, the 25th opponent to succumb to his power, Peter Malinga, said he had a discussion with the SABC team, which broadcast its show live on TKO Magazine, about his loss to Makaringe in 2004.

"I pleaded with them not to include that fight on their show because Makaringe beat me badly and we all laughed about it; today he is gone," said Malinga. "It hit me so hard; life is full of surprises and mostly painful ones." The former SA, WBU and IBO welterweight champion retired in 2007 and began training fighters.

Boxing trainer Charity Mukondeleli, who knew Makaringe from 1993, said: "We met again in 1999 in Johannesburg when he joined Nick Durandt; I also trained there. When Joe won the SA against Virgil Kalakoda at Wembley Arena in 2000; I fought in the undercard and lost my fight.

"We had a big party celebrating his win; His death has opened a big hole in my heart. This is one man who took education seriously."Makaringe was a qualified chartered accountant but he did not practice due to his commitment to boxing.

Sadly, he was never honoured for being the longest reigning national champion those years. Harold Volbrecht holds the record of defending the SA welterweight title 19 times. He chalked up 47 wins, five losses and two draws.

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