Eastern Cape remembers Mzi Mnguni: province to request state funeral for legendary boxing icon

14 February 2021 - 15:15 By Mesuli Zifo
A file photo of Mzimasi Mnguni receiving Boxing SA's lifetime achievement award in Port Elizabeth in February 2018.
A file photo of Mzimasi Mnguni receiving Boxing SA's lifetime achievement award in Port Elizabeth in February 2018.
Image: Nick Lourens/ SowetanLIVE

The boxing world was plunged into mourning on Saturday morning after the death of boxing icon Mzimasi Mnguni in an East London hospital.

He was 73 years old.

Mnguni‚ popularly known as Bra Mzi‚ had been battling poor health since suffering a stroke that confined him to a wheelchair in 2014.

His health deteriorated over the years and he was in and out of hospital.

He spent the last two months in hospital‚ where he died on Saturday morning.

His brother Sihle said his sibling died on the same day the family was burying their sister.

“His passing happens when we as a family were burying our sister Nontombi‚” he said.

Mnguni made history by becoming the first trainer to produce the most world boxing champions in the country after opening a boxing club‚ Eyethu, in Mdantsane.

The club was small in the early days but produced its first champion when a 17-year-old Mveleli Luzipho dethroned the late Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala in 1982.

It is still a mystery how Luzipho was allowed to turn professional when he was under 18‚ which is the minimum age requisite.

But it was when Mnguni teamed up with Johannesburg promoter Rodney Berman that his boxing career took off in a big way.

The pair travelled to Israel in 1990 where Welcome Ncita made history by becoming the first boxer from the Eastern Cape and only the second SA black boxer to win a world title after beating Frenchman Fabrice Benechou to lift the IBF junior featherweight title.

Ncita defended the title five times before surrendering it to American Kennedy McKinney‚ who was later dethroned by then unknown Mnguni prodigy Vuyani Bungu in 1994.

This was arguably the peak of Mnguni's success as more of his boxers captured world titles‚ including Mbulelo Botile (IBF bantamweight champion)‚ Zolani Petelo (IBF mini-flyweight champion)‚ Hawk Makepula (WBO junior-flyweight champion and Lindi Memani (WBU mini-flyweight champion). He also produced a horde of national champions.

The epitome of that success saw him being awarded the IBF trainer of the year‚ becoming the first and only South African to do so.

Due to his immense contribution to boxing‚ the Eastern Cape government has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa and asked him to consider giving Mnguni a state funeral.

“Mr Mnguni invested time‚ energy and wisdom in developing boxers in our province from his Eyethu boxing club in Mdantsane where he first came on board as a sponsor of boxers and later he mentored different generations of boxers into national and world champions‚” EC premier Oscar Mabuyane said in a statement.

“We will be writing to the president to request approval of the declaration of Mr Mnguni’s funeral service in honour of the contribution he made in the development of sport.”

Mnguni's funeral arrangements are yet to be announced.

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