Cape Town referee to handle Anthony Joshua's world heavyweight title defence

Male Ring official of the year Deon Dwarte during the 2018 Boxing SA Awards at Boardwalk Casino and Hotel on February 02, 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Male Ring official of the year Deon Dwarte during the 2018 Boxing SA Awards at Boardwalk Casino and Hotel on February 02, 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Image: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images

Cape Town referee Deon Dwarte will become the second South African to referee a world heavyweight title bout when he handles Anthony Joshua’s defence in London next weekend.

“It came as a bit of a surprise to me‚” Dwarte said on Friday before jetting out to Britain where he will have to stay in a bio-bubble for the week building up to the fight on Saturday.

He received a call last week asking if he was available to handle the bout‚ but he thought he’d be one of the three judges. Then the appointment letter came‚ naming him the third man in the ring.

“I must admit I am a bit nervous‚ but once the first bell goes I’ll be fine‚” he said.

The last time an SA official handled a world title contest was way back in October 1981 when Stan Christodoulou‚ one of Dwarte’s mentors‚ took charge in the WBA contest between Mike Weaver and James Tillis.

The WBA was one of only two sanctioning bodies at that time‚ but Joshua holds three of the main four belts — the WBA‚ IBF and WBO crowns‚ as well as the IBO title. Tyson Fury is the WBC champion.

Spectators will be allowed into the Wembley arena to watch Joshua face Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev‚ the first time there’ll be a live gate in England since lockdown started.

“I think 1‚000 will be let in‚” said father-of-two Dwarte‚ 51. “Imagine if Joshua had a full crowd. He’d pack 60‚000‚ 70‚000.

“At least there’ll only be 1‚000 people to abuse me‚” he added with a chuckle.

He is his harshest critic. “I’ll record my fights and watch. I’m very critical of myself. I’m very judgmental. I’ll see something and say ‘why did you do that?’. I'm always spotting mistakes.”

Dwarte‚ a deputy director at the Western Cape department of community safety‚ was a useful amateur boxer in his day‚ fighting in the same military team as Gary Murray‚ who went on to win a marginal world title as a professional.

He earned provincial colours with Griqualand West and won light-flyweight silver at the 1988 SA Defence Force championships‚ when they were famously competitive.

After he became an official‚ he and his peers were held back by then Western Cape boxing head Mickey Klaas‚ who groomed them slowly and didn't rush them into big fights.

Dwarte judged his first SA title bout after five years and his first assignment as a referee in a national title fight came another two years later. “Mickey knew when to expose us.”

He learned from several top officials in Cape Town‚ but Christodoulou was always the ultimate standard-setter.

“We all used to watch Stan Christodoulou. The guy [Christodoulou] used to move beautifully in the ring.”

He also admires the footwork of East London’s Lulama Mtya.

“I like to watch fights‚ but I don’t watch the fight‚ I watch the referee.”​

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