Nkabiti’s death opens up old wounds

Life cut short:   Herbert Nkabiti. (Botswana Daily news)
Life cut short: Herbert Nkabiti. (Botswana Daily news)

Johannesburg - Former two-time world champion Brian “Mean Machine” Mitchell says Herbert Nkabiti’s death has brought back bad memories of seeing his own opponent, Jacob “Dancing Shoes” Morake, die a day after sustaining a head injury during their bout almost 32 years ago.

Morake was knocked out in the 12th round of their South African junior lightweight title contest at the Sun City Superbowl in 1985 and did not regain consciousness.

Nkabiti (36), from Botswana, collapsed at the end of the sixth round in a light welterweight non-title bout against Willis Baloyi at Carnival City in Brakpan last Friday.

He was rushed to Sunward Park Hospital in Boksburg, where a blood clot in his brain was detected.

He was then transferred to a government hospital and died the next day.

Difficult situation

Mitchell said Nkabiti’s death devastated him because it opened up old wounds.

“This fight has brought back bad memories because I knocked out Morake in the 12th round. It’s sad that [Nkabiti] also went down in the final round and also died a day after the incident,” said Mitchell.

“I thought I had forgotten about the Morake incident. Now this fight has reminded me of the difficult situation I was in at the time my opponent passed on.”

But Mitchell, who previously held the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation junior lightweight titles, said life had to go on.

He believes that boxers should protect themselves at all times during fights.

“Boxing is a dangerous game and protection is the key. It’s a pity we’ve lost yet another life in the ring.”

Nkabiti, who was best known for winning a silver medal in the light welterweight division at the 2007 All-Africa Games as an amateur, was trained by Manny Fernandes.

“He came to Joburg in 2009 and was a very talented fighter. He had 11 fights since joining our stable. It’s sad that his life had to be cut short while he was doing what he loved most,” said Fernandes.

Promoter Virgil Kalakoda, who organised last week’s showdown, said he was planning to stage a tournament in Gaborone on July 28 to honour Nkabiti in his home country.

“All the proceeds of the event will go to his family. We’re also planning to stage a corporate golf day for him on July 29. All the money collected at the event will also be given to his family,” said Kalakoda.

Baloyi has been quoted saying he is “very sorry” about the death of his opponent.

Punishment in ring

The death of Nkabiti comes almost three years after Phindile Mwelase died after being knocked out by Liz Butler in the sixth round of their scheduled eight-round light middleweight bout in Pretoria on October 10 2014.

Dr Shuaib Manjra, a sports medicine specialist in Rondebosch, Cape Town, said Nkabiti’s death may have been caused by bleeding of the brain.

“It’s likely that he may have bled on the brain as a result of the punishment he received. That’s very dangerous,” said Manjra.

“Like many other sports, boxing is dangerous, but I’m not in any way suggesting it should be banned,” he said.

Statistics provided by boxing historian Ron Jackson show that aside from Mwelase, all of the country’s fighters who died as result of punishment in the ring were men.

Nkabiti was buried in Botswana yesterday.

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