Boxing foes become friends

Thulani Malinga (
Thulani Malinga (

Cape Town - Thulani "Sugarboy" Malinga, the first South African fighter to capture a lucrative World Boxing Council (WBC) title, will meet former US opponent Roy Jones Jr for the first time outside the ring at a dinner at Valley Centre in Craighall, Johannesburg, on Wednesday night.

The US boxing legend, who has teamed up with local celebrated boxing manager Jodi Solomon, will be in South Africa for the launch of their gym.

The former archrivals will socialise at a cocktail party organised for Jones to celebrate the official opening of his gym in Craighall.

The boxing legend from Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal has applauded Jones for his work on nurturing local boxing talent.

"I'm happy about what Solomon and Jones are doing - it will help elevate South African boxing to another level," said Malinga.

"I'm elated that I will see him again and shake hands with him after so long."

The 62-year-old two-time WBC world super middleweight champion and the former US fighter last saw each other in 1993 in the US.

Jones (42) knocked Malinga out in the eighth round of a scheduled 10-round contest.

Malinga, who is sharing his boxing knowledge with aspiring boxers in Alexandra township in Johannesburg and in his home province, said he remembers that fight as vividly as if it happened yesterday.

"It's been a long time since that fight and I am looking forward to seeing him," said Malinga.

"I still remember that fight very well. I was on my way out of boxing and they were grooming Jones Jr to campaign in the super middleweight division."

He registered a split decision victory over Nigel Benn in Manchester in 1996 to win the historic WBC super middleweight title.

Four months later, he surrendered the crown to Italian Vincenzo Nardiello - also a split decision.

In 1997, Malinga outpointed Robin Reid from the UK to claim the green and gold belt, and he retired in 2000.

In the year Malinga hung up his gloves, Dingaan "The Rose of Soweto" Thobela became the second South African to win a WBC belt when he knocked out Glenn Catley at Carnival City.

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