South African Great, Former Three-Time Champion Dingaan Thobela Dies At 57

By James Slater - 04/30/2024 - Comments

In sad news, it has been reported that Dingaan Thobelo, one of the greatest ever fighters to have come out of South African, has died at age 57. The former three-time world champion was found dead in his flat in Mayfair, Johannesburg, with concerned friends having to force their way in, this after Thobela had not been responding to phone calls for some time. Reports say Thobela had been battling an illness.

A superb fighter in his day, Thobela, known as the “Rose of Soweto,” also did a heck of a lot to unite blacks and whites during the difficult Apartheid days. Going pro in June of 1986, this after compiling a hugely impressive 80-3 amateur record, Thobela, a clever and cunning ring warrior who was also tough and full of heart and desire, went 22-0-1 before winning his first world title. The draw came against Peter Mpikashe in what was Thobela’s fourth pro fight, with him winning the WBO lightweight title with a split decision victory over Maurico Aceves , this fight taking place in Brownsville, USA in September of 1990.

Thobela actually boxed in the US numerous times, with him defending his belt there and with him unsuccessfully challenging Tony Lopez for the WBA lightweight title on US soil. Lopez won the decision in February of 1993, but Thobela won the June return, the rematch taking place in Sun City, with Thobela winning the decision. Thobela then lost the WBA belt in a fight with Orzubek Nazarov, with him also losing the return, both fights taking place in South Africa and both fights going the distance.

Thobela wasn’t done yet.

In 2000, this after losing a couple of fights, one of which was a second round KO defeat to Geoff McCreesh, this Thobela’s first stoppage loss, Thobela upset Britain’s Glenn Catley to take the WBC super-middleweight title. The 12th round KO Thobela scored marked a genuinely impressive ring comeback. Thobela was now a three-time world champion, at two weights. Thobela was closing in on his 34th birthday and he was now sporting a 40-7-2 record.

The Catley win was the last victory Thobela would score, with him losing the 168 pound belt to Dave Hilton Jr, this via split decision in Canada. Thobela fought on, facing big names like Mikkel Kessler and Lucian Bute, but he was now past his best by some margin.

Finally walking away in late 2006, this after a stoppage loss to Soon Botes, Thobela was safe in the knowledge that he had done a whole lot for sport in his country. Thobela’s final ring record reads 40-14-2(26).

Our condolences go out to Dingaan’s family and friends at this time.

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