In the most recent issue of Boxing News, the British weekly magazine, that was founded in 1909 by the original editor John Murray, published a list of the greatest African fighters of all time.
The well-known boxing author Patrick Myler wrote in his book, A Century of Boxing Greats, name your top hundred anything and you’ll get one hundred arguments. One man’s ring idol is another man’s not-much-better than average performer.
Possibly the same will apply to this top ten, with not many disputing the rights of legends like Azumah Nelson, Dick Tiger and Vic Toweel to be included in the list.
The top ten are:
1. AZUMAH NELSON
The Ghanaian won WBC titles at featherweight and junior-lightweight and scored wins over top-rated fighters like Wilfredo Gomez and Jeff Fenech.
2. DICK TIGER
The Nigerian unified the WBC and WBA titles on two occasions at middleweight and also held the WBC and WBA light-heavyweight belts. He scored victories over world middleweight champions Gene Fullmer and Joey Giardello. He beat Jose Torres for the light-heavyweight title.
3. VIC TOWEEL
Possibly South Africa’s greatest fighter, who beat the legendary Manuel Ortiz for the undisputed world bantamweight title in only his 14th professional fight. There are 80 South African fighters who have won a version of the numerous alphabet titles around today, but Toweel is the only South African to have held a universal/undisputed world title.
4. BRIAN MITCHELL
Mitchell only lost once in a career of 49 fights and captured the WBA and IBF junior- lightweight belts. He made a record 12 defences of the WBA belt and was obliged to defend his crown outside his home country due to the Government’s policies at the time.
5. IKE QUARTEY
The Ghanaian, who had a great jab, was a quality fighter and defended the WBA welterweight title seven times, before losing it on a split decision to Oscar De La Hoya in a WBC title bout.
6. BABY JAKE MATLALA
One of the shortest boxers in the history of boxing, he won four versions of a world title in a 68-bout career. In July 1997 the South African stopped Michael Carbajal in nine rounds. Carbajal is rated as one of the best junior flyweights of all-time.
7. VUYANI BUNGU
One of the best South African fighters in world terms in recent years, he held the IBF junior featherweight belt from 1994 to 1999 and made a record 13 title defences. This is the most “world” title defences by a South African fighter.
8. HOGAN KID BASSEY
This Nigerian featherweight, in a long 74-fight career, against the odds, won the vacant world featherweight title when he stopped local favourite Cherif Hamia in the tenth round in Paris. He also scored a ninth-round technical knockout win over the legendary Willie Pep, when Pep was well past his best.
9. DINGAAN THOBELA
A highly talented fighter from South Africa, he won the WBO and WBA lightweight belts, and, in a major upset, went all the way up to super-middleweight to stop Glenn Catley for the WBC belt.
10. HARRY SIMON
One of the most talented fighters to come out of Africa, the Namibian won the WBO junior-middleweight and middleweight belts in an undefeated career. His defeat of Ronald “Winky” Wright was a major upset.