SA’s ‘white Sugar Ray’ dies at 83

Willie Toweel‚ who excelled as a boxer and a trainer‚ died at the age of 83 on Christmas Day‚ family and friends said.

A file photo of Willie Toweel during the Willie Toweel Benefit dinner at Carnival City in Brakpan, South Africa. Willie Toweel is the only man to win 4 SA titles at different weights and is being presented with a BSA Blazer & award. Image: Duif du Toit \ Gallo Images

Toweel‚ the brother of South Africa’s only undisputed world champion‚ Vic‚ was once described by undefeated world heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano as the white Sugar Ray Robinson.

Marciano‚ retired by then‚ had seen Toweel edge out rated lightweight Len Matthews by a split decision at Madison Square Garden in 1959‚ the first time a South African had topped the bill at that famous New York venue.

Robinson‚ who dominated the middleweight division in the 1950s‚ is widely regarded as the world’s greatest pound-for-pound fighter.

Toweel won an Olympic flyweight bronze at the Helsinki Games in 1952 and three years later fought to a disputed draw in his challenge against Robert Cohen for the same world bantamweight crown his brother had held.

The next year Toweel suffered a breakdown after his opponent and friend‚ Hubert Essakow‚ died after suffering a knockout defeat.

Toweel carried on boxing‚ but his knockout ratio dropped significantly‚ possibly also the result of moving up in weight.

He remains the only South African to have won national titles in four divisions‚ from bantamweight to featherweight and lightweight and eventually welterweight.

Toweel hung up his gloves in 1960‚ aged just 27‚ after being stopped by future star Emile Griffith‚ also at the Garden.

As a trainer Toweel groomed stars like Brian Mitchell‚ Sugarboy Malinga‚ and Charlie Weir‚ although he was no longer with them by the time they reached their peak.

But insiders always warned that Toweel was a danger when manning the opposite corner because he was able to analyse fighters quickly and pick out their weaknesses‚ which he’d get his boxers to exploit.

By: David Isaacson – TimesLIVE

Source: TMG Digital.

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