Very sad news was received from South Africa in the last week with news of the passing of their first black boxer to win a world title – Peter ‘Terror’ Mathebula. A number of notable champions (Willie Smith, Arnold Taylor and Vic Toweel) had preceded him, but none before had represented the majority population.
Mathebula became an icon in his home country in December 1980 when he defeated South Korean Tae-Shik Kim on a split decision in Los Angeles to win the WBA world flyweight title. His victory was unexpected and came in the midst of the apartheid years and its associated struggles. Peter, a kid from Mohlakeng township near Johannesburg travelled across the world to give joy to his country and community.
His success at world level although miraculous and notable, was short lived, losing the title in his first defence to Santos Laciar, an Argentinian multi-weight champion.
A streetfighter from the age of 10, Mathebula’s career was also notable for winning the South African flyweight title in 1976. He had the distinction of fighting professionally the same opponent seven times – Johannes Sithebe. All were exciting fights and four with the South African flyweight title at stake. His last fight was in August 1983 finishing with a record of 36-9 with 17 wins inside the distance.
He died at age 67 following an illness and this tragedy was made the more heart wrenching with the death of his wife of 40 years just six days later from natural causes. A joint funeral will be held on Tuesday January 28th at the Ramosa Hall in Randfontein, near Johannesburg. Condolences and thoughts are sent from The Undisputed to all family and friends.