Where Have the African Heavyweights Gone?

By Ken Hissner: In last Saturday’s event at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Tottenham, UK, South Africa’s former IBO World Cruiser champion and current WBA Inter-Continental Heavyweight champion southpaw Kevin Lerena, 28-1 (14), in the first round, looked like a killer in dropping Daniel ‘Dynamite’ Dubois, 18-1 (17), of the UK, scoring a knockdown.

Before you knew it, Dubois dropped to a knee without being hit for a second knockdown causing referee Howard Foster to give him the second 8-count. It looked like Dubois was quitting. Upon rising, Lerena went in for the finish dropping him for the third time.

Foster could have waved it off at that time but didn’t.

In the second round, Lerena either punched himself out in the first round or just couldn’t pull the trigger allowing Dubois back in the fight knocking down Dubois twice, causing referee Foster to wave it off as the bell sounded. The word “fix, fix” rang out.

Years ago, I did an article on the first African boxer to win the heavyweight title when South Africa’s Gerrie “The Boksburg Bomber” Coetzee, 28-3-1, knocked out WBA Heavyweight champion Michael “Dynamite” Dokes, 26-0-2, in the tenth round at the Richfield Coliseum, in Ohio, USA, in September of 1983.

Coetzee had 23 surgeries on his right hand, which was called “The Bionic Hand”! For some reason, he didn’t defend the title for some fourteen months. The inactivity hurt him big time. He took on IBF USBA champion Greg Page, 23-3, who was coming off two decision losses.

YouTube video

The first was in March of 1984 to future world champion “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon, 17-1. The second was in August to David “Hand Grenade” Bey, 13-0, for Coetzee’s IBF USBA title.

Page knocked Coetzee out at 3:03 of the eighth round at the Superbowl, in Sun City, South Africa, in December of 1984. Coetzee went 2-4 after that, stopped by Frank Bruno in 1986 and eleven years later in his final fight to 3-division world champion Iran “The Blade” Barkley in June of 1997.

After writing the article, I was contacted by African Kenddrie Utuk of the American Film Company in Virginia. He asked if the proposed movie “Gerrie” gets enough financing would I come to South Africa for the showing? I immediately said, “I won’t leave America, for I might not be able to get back in it!”

In March of 2003, the second African boxer to win a world championship and the last to this day, southpaw Corrie “The Sniper” Sanders, 38-2, stopped WBO champion Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko, 40-1, of Kyiv, Ukraine, in the second round at the Preussag Arena, Hannover, Germany.

Just like Coetzee, Sanders didn’t defend his title for some thirteen months when he was stopped by Wladimir’s brother Vitali “Dr. Ironfist” 33-2, in the eighth round, at Staples Center, Los Angeles, California, USA.

Sanders went 3-1 after that, losing his final fight in 2008 to Osborn Machimana, 15-5-1, stopped in the first round.

Some of the bigger names going back were Nigerian-born Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter, 38-9 (31), who never fought in Africa, making his debut in the USA in his second fight.

At 24-0, he lost in an IBF and WBO elimination bout to Wladimir Klitschko in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He would lose to him two more times. His claim to fame was defeating James “Lights Out” Toney twice.

Henry Akinwande was born in the UK but moved to Nigeria at the age of four. In 1986 he returned to the UK and represented the UK in 1988 at the Olympics. In June of 1996, he knocked out Jeremy Williams, 26-1, in three rounds to win the vacant WBO title at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Idaho to improve his record to 30-0-1.

In his third defense, he lost by DQ to Lennox “The Lion” Lewis, 30-1, at Caesars Tahoe, Stateline, Nevada, USA. He would go on to win his next eight fights before being stopped by former champion Oliver “The Atomic Bull” McCall, 38-7, and go 10-2 after that before retiring.

Frans “The White Buffalo” Botha, 48-11-3 (29), from Witbank, South Africa, was 35-0 when he won the vacant IBF title in December of 1995, defeating Axel Schulz, 21-2-1, in Stuttgart, Germany.

The decision would be overturned due to Botha testing positive for steroids changing the decision to no contest. Schulz, six months later, lost to Michael Moorer for the vacant title.

Botha, some eleven months after the Schulz fight, in his next fight, Botha lost to Moorer, 37-1, at MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, in the twelfth and final round behind on two of the scores at the time.

He won his next four fights before getting knocked out by “Iron” Mike Tyson, 45-3, at the same venue he lost to Moorer. Three fights later, in 2000, in a rematch, he lost to Lennox Lewis again by the stoppage for the WBC and IBF titles.

In 2002 he was stopped by WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko. In 2010 he was stopped by former world champion and then WBF champion Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, 45-10-2. After winning his next fight, he lost his last six before retiring.

Kallie Knoetze, 21-6 (20), was 6-1 when he lost to Gerrie Coetzee on points. He won his next eleven fights before being stopped by 1976 Olympic Bronze Medalist John Tate, 18-0, who stopped Gerrie Coetzee in his next fight for the world title.

1996 Olympic Bronze Medalist Nigerian Duncan Dokiwari, 25-3 (22), turned pro in the USA, living in Las Vegas, Nevada, where all his fights were out of.

His first twelve fights, for some reason, were all four rounder that he won. In his first six-rounder, he lost to Fres Oquendo, 10-0. In his first ten rounder, he lost to Dominick “The Southern Disaster” Gunn, 22-0, when he was 22-1 in 2003.

A year later, he was stopped by Stacy Frazier, 12-3, winning his last three fights and ending his career in 2006.

Last but not least of those in the past was the strange case of Nigerian Ike “The President” Ibeabuchi, 20-0 (15), with all his fights in the USA living in Dallas, Texas, turning pro in 1994.

He was 16-0 when he defeated David “Tuaman” Tua, 27-0, for the WBC International title. In 1999 he stopped future world champion Chris “Rapid Fire” Byrd, 26-0, in Tacoma, Washington, USA, which would be his last fight. He was sent to prison in 2001 for a conviction that was overturned in 2007.

In looking over the IBO’s 100 boxers listed, I came across Martin Bakole, 18-1 (13), from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who had three of his first five fights in Africa before moving on to Scotland, UK.

Another is 2016 Olympian Nigerian Efe Agagba, 16-1 (13), whose all his fights have been in the USA living in Stafford, Texas, losing at 15-0 to Frank “The Cuban Flash” Sanchez, 18-0, in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. He is scheduled in January to meet Oscar Rivas, 28-1, in New York.

So there are some of the boxers in the past and current from Africa with none near a current world title fight since 2003 when Corrie “The Sniper” Won the world title.