The fight of her life

13 October 2014 - 02:02 By Bongani Magasela
Doctor Solly Skosana, trainer Stanley Ndlovu and a paramedic attend to stricken boxer Phindile Mwelase before rushing her to hospital. She was caught by a right-handed punch to the head during a bout in Pretoria. Her opponent, Liz Butler, is in her corner
Doctor Solly Skosana, trainer Stanley Ndlovu and a paramedic attend to stricken boxer Phindile Mwelase before rushing her to hospital. She was caught by a right-handed punch to the head during a bout in Pretoria. Her opponent, Liz Butler, is in her corner
Image: Gallo Images

A young woman boxer is fighting for her life in hospital after being knocked out in a professional bout.

Phindile Mwelase underwent surgery at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, in Pretoria, late yesterday to stem bleeding in the brain.

She has been in a coma since falling to the canvas after being caught by a single right-handed punch in the sixth round of a match in Pretoria on Friday night.

Women's boxing is relatively new to South Africa and until now has been free of serious injury.

None of Mwelase's family was at the ringside and they were unaware of what had happened until the injured woman's trainer, Stanley Ndlovu, succeeded in tracking down her sister in Johannesburg on Saturday.

"I broke the news to her and she told me that she could not tell their mother because she too was very sick, in a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal."

But staff at the Pretoria hospital, needing to have an indemnity signed, had no choice but to contact the mother.

Mwelase, who is understood to be the sole breadwinner of her KwaZulu-Natal family, had signed a R4000 contract to contest the eight-rounder.

Her opponent, Liz Butler, coming off a failed attempt for the national light-middleweight title, had a record of six fights with two wins, two losses and two draws.

Mwelase had lost all four of her previous paid bouts but was competitive on Friday night until the knockout punch.

It was the first time she had competed in an eight-round bout -- the second-longest allowed women boxers.

Mwelase was the aggressor, pushing forward for much of the fight until Butler connected with a right to the head.

Mwelase first sank to her knees then, as referee Phumeza Zinakile started counting, toppled forward onto her face.

Zinakile immediately stopped counting and summoned ringside doctor Solly Skosana.

He examined her and quickly called paramedics, who put her on oxygen because she was struggling to breath.

Mwelase was first admitted to Kalafong Hospital, Atteridgeville, but was transferred to Steve Biko the following day.

"I was told she was transferred to Steve Biko because of the specialists at that hospital," Ndlovu said yesterday.

"Her condition has not improved since Saturday night. She is not talking. It does not look good at all."

A doctor at Steve Bikosaid a blood vessel in Mwelase's brain had burst, causing severe swelling.

Her injuries are the most serious to a woman boxer in this country.

The first professional bout in South Africa, in 2007, involved two foreigners - Laila Ali, of the US, and Gwendolyn O'Neil, of Guyana.

The Sunday Times earlier this year reported that Loyiso Mtya, acting CEO of Boxing SA, had been accused of forging the fight records of local women boxers in an attempt to make them look sufficiently experienced for national title fights.

Neither Mwelase's nor Butler's names were mentioned in connection with this accusation.

Mtya denied the claims. He has since been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.

X