By Malibongwe Tokwe
Talking about the great South African boxing champions is almost impossible without referring to Mdantsane Township, the home of the champions also referred to as the Meca of Boxing. This special place is situated in the eastern region of South Africa right by the Indian Ocean coastal area.
From the early 60’s, there has been a lot of exceptional fighters who came from Mdantsane, naming few, Nkosana Mgxaji was among those first local beloved fighters who could sell out the seats of Sisa Dukashe Stadium when he fought.
The other South African great fighters like Welcome Ncita, Vuyani Bhungu, Masibulele Makepula, Mpush Makambi, Zolani Petelo competed worldwide and won the world titles in different divisions, are also from the same township of Mdantsane. Also the current WBO bantamweight champion of the world, Zolani Tete is no stranger to the world of boxing, he is the child of the Mdantsane Township.
In the north-eastern side of Mdantsane about 42 miles of distance, there is a township named Ziphunzana. This is the home of a great fighter that dominated the world bantamweight division in the mid 90’s. He was a crafty fighter that had a terrific right hand punch that could knockout anyone at his prime. Mbulelo Botile is his name.
Mbulelo Botile is the former two division world champion, with an impressive record of 31 fights, 27 wins and only 4 losses.
His greatness started to show at his early age of 21, winning the South African bantamweight title from the veteran champion Derick Whiteboy, in his back yard, Lentegeur Civic Centre, Cape Town on the 29th May 1994.
A year later on the 29th April 1995, he challenged and defeated Harold Mestre for his IBF bantamweight world title in FNB stadium in South Africa, knocking him out in two rounds, landing the right hand on top of the temple, forcing the referee to wave the fight off.
Five years later, on the 16th December 2000, a special day in South Africa (Day of Reconciliation), Mbulelo Botile moved up the division to challenge Paul “The Yorkshire Hunter” Ingle for his IBF featherweight world title in Sheffield Arena in United Kingdoms.
It took Mbulelo Botile 20 seconds in round 12 to stop Paul Ingle, touching him with the short right cross and simultaneously sweeping with the left hook to the jaw.
Paul Ingle folded like a lawn chair, collapsed and would not regain his conscious, hence was stretchered out of the ring. Due to blood clot found in his brain, he was operated and would remain in comma in the hospital intensive care for 4 weeks and had a secondary operation, a tracheotomy, to help his breathing.
His mother, Carol, could never bear to watch him fight. She was driven to the hospital, a journey she would repeat every day for six weeks: “They told me it was touch and go. We were prepared for the worst. “I called that journey from Scarborough to the hospital in Sheffield, the road to hell”
Mysteriously, Paul Ingle started to respond in his 6th week in hospital and eventually rose from the bed of death.
“The first time I opened my eyes, I said to my mother, ‘What are we doing in here? I’ve got a fight next week.’ It was all as strange as f***ck. I asked her again, ‘What am I doing here? Have I had an accident? Have I been run over? I need to get out. I need to go and fight.’ My mum told me to calm down. ‘You’ve boxed, Paul. You lost. Everything is alright, though. Calm down.’ I couldn’t believe I’d lost. I was heartbroken. I can’t remember weighing-in. I can’t remember the last week of training. It all upsets me, even now.”
Like they always say, sporting hangovers are the worst kind, and the hardest to budge. They hang around, like a spiteful disease, punishing those who dared to fly. Until this day, Paul Ingle is still dealing with the outcomes of that night.
On the 15th Dec 2018, it will be 18th anniversary of the sad tragedy that happened in Sheffield, and Paul Ingle is still fighting the never ending battle, he has difficulties with his balance, partial blindness in his left eye and slow staggered speech when he talks. “I can’t watch that last fight and I never will,” Ingle explains. “It would upset me too much to watch it. I’ve been told it wasn’t me in there. I don’t want to see myself like that. No. I’d cry my eyes out”
Doctors claimed that the damage in Paul Ingle’s brain must have happened before the knockout punch in the 12th round (discovered from the brain swell). Some of the medical experts thought the knockout punch saved his dear life, they claimed if he continued for a minute longer in round 12, the brain damage would have been too great for him to survive.
Mbulelo Botile’s victory celebration was not long lived on that night, few minutes later after Jimmy Lennon Jr announced his victory, he went across the ring to see what was happening to his opponent who was lying still in the floor. “That was the time I realised Paul was seriously hurt and I felt bad” he recalls.
Ironically, as a young boy, Mbulelo Botile had to hide his participation in the sports of boxing. His mother did not want him to be the boxer because of the early tragedy that happened in their family.
His uncle Lumkile “Young Clay” Dunjana, the former South African amateur champion who was the top talented contender in the bantamweight division from the Eastern Cape, suffered a knock out when he met Anthony “Kid Snowball” Sithole in Centenary Hall, New Brighton, Port Elizabeth on the 11th Mar 1967. Unfortunately Lumnkile Dunjana died the same evening due to the head injuries occurred in that fight.
The following fight for Anthony Sithole was his first professional loss. Caswell “Gentle Tiger” Juqula knocked out Anthony Sithole, defending his South African (Non White) bantamweight title in Orlando Stadium Johannesburg on the evening of the 29th April 1967.
Five years later on the 1st October 1971, Anthony ” Kid Snowball” Sithole was a rejuvenated fighter and seemed to have forgotten about the unfortunate death of Lumnkile Dunjana, this time he was in Australia, Brisbane, Festival Hall, fighting Alberto Jangalay from Philippines.
Going to the 8th round the fight was very competitive, and each fighter was trying to finish the championship rounds strong. In the middle of the 8th round Anthony Sithole landed the short left hook followed by the bone-cracking-looping right hand into the jaw of his opponent, and down went Jangalay…
Alberto Jangalay attempted to get back to his feet but his legs gave up on him, and so he went down again for the second time, and so the referee stopped the fight.
The sad news came the following day, Alberto Jangalay died in hospital from the fight injuries, making Anthony “Kid Snowball” Sithole the very first fighter to kill two opponents in modern boxing, the achievement he will regret for the rest of his life.
“My mother told me not to compete because I was either going to hurt someone or even be hurt myself, hence I hidden my early boxing career to her”. Mbulelo Botile recalls
The night of Paul Ingle’s knockout took away something from Mbulelo Bhotile’s fighting spirits, he was just not the same fighter again.
It is indeed common in boxing to see fighters being gun shy after they have injured or killed another fighter in the ring.
It goes back from the 1930’s when Max Bear knocked out Frankie Campbell on the 25 August 1930, where the Doctors discovered that his brain had been knocked loose from the connective tissue inside his head. Max would never punch as hard for the rest of his career.
Same applied to Primo Carnera killing Ernie Schaaf on the 10th February 1933, he was disowned by the boxing fans in the following fights, referred to as a cheater because of pulling back his punches when he landed to his opponents, trying to minimize the impact.
The greatest fighter who ever stepped in the ring, Sugar Ray Robinson, had similar experience. He was never the same fighter after he killed Jimmy Doyle on the 24th June 1947.
Prior his fight with Jimmy Doyle, Ray Robinson had a dream killing his opponent in the boxing match. He woke up and asked for the fight to be postponed or cancelled, and the promoters told him there was too much money at stake, they would ask the Priests to pray and convince Ray Robinson not to worry about his nightmare dreams.
Sadly on fight night, Ray Robinson knocked out Jimmy Doyle and Jimmy died 17 hours later due to head injuries suffered from the contest.
Emile Griffith met Benny Paret on the 24th March 1962 for Benny’s welterweight title, this was the 3rd fight rubber match as each man had beaten the other once. Leading to the fight, Benny would taunt Emile for being gay. Emile viciously knocked out Benny in round 12 of their scheduled 15 rounds fight. Ten days later Benny died in hospital. Since that night Emile’s fighting instincts left his body, and he was never the same exciting fighter anymore.
The only South African hall of fame former world champion Brian Mitchell had the very same experience when he stopped Jacob “Dancing Shoes” Morake in the Superbowl, Sun City on the 2nd November 1985. Jacob died the following morning. Since that day, Brian has confirmed that his punches lost the sting.
The feeling was not mutual for Mbulelo Botile, it eventually cached up with him when he went against Cassius Baloyi for the IBO super featherweight title in Carnival City, Brakpan on 26th October 2002.
Mbulelo Botile was in control of the fight and ahead on points until the 11th round.
“He who lives by the sword dies by the sword”
Cassius Baloyi landed a sharp left and right combination from the open range, forcing Mbulelo to turn his back resulting to the referee to stop the fight.
“In my whole career I have never got hurt that much in my head, I felt this excruciating pain inside my skull and in no time, the thoughts about my late uncle Lumkile Dunjana, Paul Ingle’s tragedy fight and my mother’s words about me being seriously hurt, ran across my mind. That is why I decided to stop fighting and walked away, I was maybe superstitious, but then again, who knows what would have happened if I continued to fight that night?”
Mbulelo Botile is definitely one of the colorful champions ever to come from South Africa, he has fought great fights and he is the legend in the township of Ziphunzana. He had over 300 amateur fights losing only a handful of fights to great former champions like Zolile “The Bone Crusher” Mbityi.
In the interview we had with the champ, he told us about the sparring session he had with Phillip “Time Bomb” Ndou in America, when Phillip was preparing for the Mayweather jr fight on 2003, for more details please listen to the audio interview.
Enjoy Mbulelo Botile’s interview…