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SA boxing finally gets its big book

  • By ClintonV
  • November 1, 2017
  • Comments Off on SA boxing finally gets its big book

Ron Jackson watched his first live fight in 1949 when George Hunter beat Freddie Vorster in Springs for the SA light-heavyweight title.

A few decades have passed since, but Jackson can still be found ringside, just as enthusiastic as he was as a wide-eyed 13-year-old. If he was a fan then, he’s still a fan, but also a historian and raconteur who is never happier than when he talks boxing.

He has amassed an enormous collection of boxing books, garnered from all over the world, and enjoys a reputation as the go-to man for boxing information. He’s also a long-time correspondent for SuperSport and Fightnews.

Now in his 80s, the former footballer has driven his passion into a project 15 years in the making: an encyclopaedia of SA boxing, aptly titled “Champions”.

WWoolf Bendoff, who fought for the SA heavyweight championship in 1889.

It’s a chunky volume filled with the remarkable minutiae of local boxing, not least the records of every SA champion from the late 1800’s. He and preeminent record keeper Andre de Vries scoured old newspapers, scrap books, programmes and what have you to ensure that every boxer of consequence was recognised. It is, in every way, the ultimate labour of love.

There is much to recommend about the magnum opus, chiefly recognition, for the first time, of the significant role played by black boxers. This story has only been told in patches down the years, but “Champions” is the first to officially document the broad history of black boxing in South Africa. This is a triumph and captures the essence of black and white boxing coming together long before other sport did in apartheid South Africa.

The most enjoyable part of the book is in the telling of the growth of local boxing, not least when the rush for gold in the late 1800’s saw an entire city built up almost overnight. Johannesburg drew hucksters and hopefuls, but it also attracted fighting men who regularly put on a show for prospectors.

One such fight occurred at the Eagle’s Nest Mining Company grounds six miles east of Joburg when James Couper claimed the vacant SA heavyweight title with a 27th-round KO of Woolf Bendoff in 1889.

It was a knock-‘em-down-drag-‘em-out affair with 5000 people paying £5 a head to attend. Meanwhile, another 2000 stormed in after breaking through the fencing.

Jackson also sticks his neck out and lists his own top 10 SA boxers, something sure to arouse debate among fans.

He’s has always been a stickler for facts and this book is jam-packed with them, many never before published. The tapestry of local boxing is much the richer for this excellent work.

At R300 (plus postage) it’s a great idea for a Christmas gift. Anyone interested can give Ron a ring on 078 507 2603.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Boxing, Reading & Books

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