Boxing champ Vic Toweel dies

2008-08-15 08:55

Johannesburg - Former world bantamweight boxing champion Vic Toweel, arguably the best fighter South Africa ever produced, died in Sydney, Australia on Friday morning.

Toweel, who was 80, settled in Australia about 20 years ago. He was one of the famous Toweel brothers. Willie, the only one who is still alive, fought for a world title, Alan was a top trainer, Maurice an outstanding matchmaker and Jimmy a SA champion.

Victor Anthony Toweel was born on the January 12, 1929 in Benoni. He was the second eldest of six brothers and the son of Michael Joseph Toweel, who was of Lebanese descent. Michael Toweel, better known as Pappa Mike, changed the course of SA boxing history in a make-shift corrugated iron gymnasium, at No 12 Balfour Avenue, Benoni.

It was there, in the backyard of his home, that he taught his sons, Jimmy, Victor, Alan, Willie and Fraser, the basic rudiments of the gloved art and forged a family legacy that is without parallel in the annals of the ring.

Vic Toweel was SA's first and only undisputed world boxing champion. His greatness as a fighter was expounded by the fact that he fought in an era when there were only 8 divisions with eight world champions compared to today's 17 divisions and more or less 70 world champions. Vic, in his only fourth fight as a professional, won the SA bantamweight title.

In his ninth fight, he became the SA featherweight champion. He captured the British Empire Bantamweight Title, in his 11th fight.

On May 31, 1950, in his 14th fight, at the tender age of 21, he won the world bantamweight championship.

Vic, beat the great Manuel Ortiz who was recognised as one of the greatest bantamweight champions of all time. At that stage, Manuel Ortiz was a veteran of 110 fights whereas Vic had had only fought 13 contests as a professional.

On that night, he placed SA sport in the international limelight.

During his reign as a world champion, Toweel, also referred to as 'The White Henry Armstrong', had 13 bouts consisting of three successful title defences and 10 successful non-title fights against world rated contenders.

He successfully defended his world title against Danny O'Sullivan (KO 10 round) whom he dropped 14 times, winning him a place in the Guinness Book of Records, for the most knock downs in a world title fight. His second and third title defences were against Luis Romero (won in 15 rounds) and Peter Keenan (won in 15 rounds). A drastically weight-weakened Vic was dethroned by Jimmy Caruthers in his fourth title defence.

He was brilliant as an amateur where he won Springbok colours, fought in the 1948 Olympic Games in London and compiled an unbelievable record of 188 wins with only two losses - 160 by knock out.

He was an instinctive boxer /fighter who, at his best, flaunted incredible stamina, perfect balance and a blazing work ethic. His greatest asset as a fighter was his ability to throw non-stop batteries of punches without tiring.

He was a gentleman to the core, inside and outside the ring, and to most boxing experts, he remains the greatest pound for pound fighter ever to have been produced in SA.

Willie Toweel said, "I'd like on behalf of the Toweel family to thank all the South Africa public for their support over the years. We are heartbroken to see Viccie go but know that he lived life to the full and left his mark in the world. May his soul rest in peace."