The Monday LunchBox

The eyes of ‘Baby Jake’

The South African Sporting Hall of Fame

The Republic of South Africa (RSA) is a very proud sporting nation. Across a population in excess of 58 million with 11 official languages its people have excelled in a number of worldwide sports; this, despite over two decades of sporting isolation in the 1970’s and ‘80’s, due to a world response and condemnation of its former apartheid regime.

Now democratic across all of its inhabitants it continues to punch above its weight in the national obsession of rugby union, cricket, golf, tennis, athletics and historically boxing. Internally, soccer is the number one sport amongst the masses, but not as dominant on the world stage.

This weekend The Undisputed was privileged to visit the new and quickly developing South African Sporting Hall of Fame in the entertainment resort of Sun City. This resort was off limits for the majority of the world’s media and conscientious entertainers during the dark days of the apartheid years, but is now open for business.

This heritage and diversity of South African sports is represented in the Hall by a timeline display showing key moments of their sporting success.

Even during the dark days of sporting isolation Sun City managed to stage some of the biggest fights in South African boxing history, regularly featuring WBA Heavyweight champion Gerrie Coetzee and being the scene of International Boxing Hall of Famer Brian Mitchell’s winning of the WBA junior lightweight title against Alfredo Layne in 1986. As a result, and because of its rich heritage, boxing is well represented in the Hall.

Across a variety of collections of memorabilia, video and photographic essays and interactive displays, the careers of fighters like Vic Toweel (the first South African to win a world title (at bantamweight) and only one to solely make the cover of The Ring magazine), the aforementioned heavyweight Coetzee, the first black South African world champion Peter Mathebula (see last week’s LunchBox tribute), the shortest in height and multi-weight champion Jacob ‘Baby Jake’ Matlala (a particular favourite of former president Nelson Mandela) and multiple defending champions Brian Mitchell and Vuyani Bungu are represented.

Two weight world champion Brian Mitchell’s tribute

The displays and Hall, although very much still work in progress, are well worth a visit particularly for boxing fans, but also those who follow other major sports. There are excellent collections of memorabilia from 400m world record holder Wayde Van Niekerk and many displays showing the power and success of the South African Springbok rugby team, currently world champions for a third time.

A nice touch is also provided by a notice board on exit signed by all prominent sporting figures who have visited the Hall, many of who have displays, and other sporting officials, promoters and luminaries. One notable entry is from record breaking boxing world referee and judge Stanley Christodoulou (also featured in a recent LunchBox article).

Entry is for all sports nuts and included in an overnight stay at the resort and also purchasable by day ticket. It can be found in the main Sun Central building which also features the indoor arena that hosted many of the big fights held here. A must see.

Makabu captures WBC cruiserweight title

Also worthy of mention this week was regular South African visitor but Congolese Ilunga ‘Junior’ Makabu’s (27-2, 24 KO’s) winning of the WBC 200lb title. He scored a twelve round unanimous decision against previously unbeaten Pole Michal Cieslak (19-1, 13 KO’s). Official scores were 114-112, 115-111, 116-111.

The fight was also noteworthy for being the first world title fight held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) since the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ of October 1974 between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. The latter being victorious and famously regaining the World Heavyweight title.

This regular weekly feature is to also raise awareness of the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care.

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