Johannesburg - This year will go down as the one that saw a number of South African boxers make their mark in the ring as they won various significant titles.
The good performance in the ring was demonstrated by Simphiwe Khonco when he beat fellow Eastern Cape hero Siyabonga Siyo on points to be crowned International Boxing Organisation (IBO) minimum flyweight king at Emperors Palace in June.
Khonco’s showing against the equally gifted Siyo was breathtaking as he (Khonco) redeemed himself following an unanimous points decision defeat he suffered at the hands of his stablemate Hekkie Hexecutioner Budler at the same venue in September last year.
The other pugilist who stood out this year was Zolani Last Born Tete who ingratiated himself with his English fans by claiming a seventh-round stoppage against Mexico’s Victor Ruiz to win the International Boxing Federation (IBF) international bantamweight crown at Echo Arena in Liverpool in June.
Tete’s impressive display earned him a nomination for the boxer of the year award.
Who will ever forget Kevin Lerena’s exploits this year?
He stopped Johnny Muller in the 10th round at Emperors Palace in April to lift the SA and World Boxing Association Pan African cruiserweight champion belt.
Lerena’s star continued to shine bright as he overcame a stubborn Denmark’s Mickey Nielsen by majority decision to win the Super Four cruiserweight final at the same venue in October.
Female fighters also showed their class in the ring this year, with Bukiwe Nonina stealing the thunder by beating Matshidiso Mokebisi on points in a South African female bantamweight title defence at Durban’s International Convention Centre in March.
Nonina defended her belt successfully by beating Simangele Hadebe on points at King Hintsa College Hall in Dutywa, Eastern Cape in October.
This year also marked the arrival on the boxing scene of Azinga Golden Boy Fuzile who, at 19, became the youngest boxer to win the national championship with a mere five fights.
He deposed the more experienced Macbute Sinyabi to lift the SA featherweight diadem at the Orient Theatre in September.
Last Friday saw Golden Boy add the World Boxing Council junior featherweight belt to his name by knocking out Giorgi Gochisvili from Georgia in the first round at Mdantsane Indoor Centre.
Another great moment that illuminated the face of boxing was the appointment of Tsholofelo Lejaka as chief executive officer of Boxing SA in June.
He has so far brought positive results in a concerted effort to turn the operation of the governing boxing body around.
While boxing wallowed in glory, there were negative twists that marred the sport of the fisticuffs as well this year.
Some boxers had to endure the trauma of not being paid their purse money by promoters. A classic example involved Xolisani Nomeva Ndongeni who was not paid R100 000 by Sijuta Promotions’ Andile Sidinile after his fight against Tanzanian Emilio Norfat at the Orient Theatre in East London in April.
The other negative aspect that blighted the sport this year was the continuous blunder by the BSA ratings committee to rank fighters. Many combatants found themselves in a situation where they were incorrectly ranked.
With 2017 rolling around very soon, a lot can be expected to happen on the boxing horizon.
First to usher in the boxing season will be the South African boxing awards to be held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on January 28.
This will be the first time in many years that fighters will be recognised for their efforts in the ring.
Also to look forward to next year will be a number of local fighters who will be involved in world title contests.
On February 4 at Emperors Palace, Lerena will put his SA and WBA Pan African cruiserweight crown on the line against Namibian Vikapita Meroro.
All in all, this will be a busy year for boxing.