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Lennox Lewis © Gallo Images

Foreigners in South Africa

When Lennox Lewis and Hasim Rahman stepped into the ring at 5am South African time on Sunday, April 22 2001 at Carnival City near Brakpan, they were the first two foreign fighters to contest a world heavyweight championship in South Africa.

In one of the biggest ever upsets in world heavyweight championship boxing Lewis was counted out by referee Daniel van der Wiele at 2 minutes 32 seconds of the fifth round.

Rahman won the WBC, IBF and IBO heavyweight belts.

The unused judges were Dave Parris, Valerie Dorsett and Thabo Spampool of South Africa, one of only a handful of South Africans who have judged a world heavyweight championship fight.

In a period of 122 years there have been only a few other contests involving two non-South Africans fighting for some or other version of a “world” title.

On December 26, 1896 Charles “Kid” McCoy, whose real name was Norman Selby, fought Bill Doherty, who was a claimant to the South African middleweight title, at The Amphitheatre in Johannesburg.

Doherty was a stately old fashioned fighter with a classic fighting stance that was no longer seen anywhere except in old English prints.

The fight was also advertised as being for the 158lbs (71.66kg) world middleweight title but never received recognition as a world title fight.

McCoy made a good show of the fight and knocked Doherty him out in the ninth round and was hailed as the South African middleweight champion and middleweight champion of the world. The referee was Clem. D. Webb.

Very few boxing historians recognise his claim to the world title and the best that he could claim at the time was the South African title.

In March 1896 his fight with Tommy Ryan had been billed for Ryan’s welterweight championship, but as both fighters weighed in as middleweights there was some credence that he could claim the middleweight title.

If you accept this, then the fight against Doherty would have been in defence of the middleweight title.

Herbert G Goldman, the noted historian and record keeper, does not accept this as per the Ring Record Book and lists McCoy’s fight with Dan Creedon in December 1897 for the vacant world middleweight title. McCoy won on a 15-round stoppage.

McCoy was one the characters of the ring and had his last fight on August 4, 1916 and, according to The Ring Record Book, finished with a record of 90 wins, with 58 inside the distance, seven losses, seven draws and three no contests.


Possibly the first recognised world title fight between two foreigners on South African soil took place on September 4, 1937 when Petey Sarron retained his featherweight title with a 12-round points decision over Freddie Miller at the Wanders Stadium in Johannesburg.

However, the fight was only recognised as being for the National Boxing Association featherweight title at the time.

After Sarron’s sensational victory over Laurie Stevens in South Africa, “Tiny” St John Dean, the then secretary of the South African Boxing Board, decided to bring out Freddie Miller the American of German descent to challenge Sarron for his world crown.

Sarron had taken the world featherweight crown from Miller in May 1936 in a bruising encounter and they were sworn enemies in the ring.

Miller was no stranger to the South African ring having beaten Willie Smith on two occasions and Phil Zwick and also outpointing Frenchman Maurice Holtzer.

On July 31, 1937 Miller had beaten Sarron on points over ten rounds at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. Petey had undertaken to give the southpaw Miller a return fight for the title in the event of Miller winning.

The world title fight was arranged and this was a unique situation with two Americans contesting a world championship in Johannesburg. Tiny Dean was the third man in the ring.

In an absorbing contest Sarron emerged as a deserving winner at the end of 12 interesting rounds.

Sarron, who finished with a record of 106-23-12; 25, and Miller with a record of 184-29-5; 44 must be listed as two of the greatest world featherweight champions in history.


It took nearly 40 years before another two foreigners came to South Africa to contest a “world” title and what a sensational fight it turned out to be.

This was a fight of pure animal savagery, with Victor Galindez of the Argentine retaining his WBA light-heavyweight title, stopping American Ritchie Kates in the 15th and final round.

The contest which took place at the Rand Stadium on May 22, 1976 had the capacity crowd screaming after the fight took a dramatic turn in round three.

Midway through the round Galindez claimed that Kates had butted him as he clutched his right eye which had a hideous cut above the eyebrow and was spurting blood.

As referee Stanley Christodoulou ordered Kates to his corner many in the crowd thought the fight was over.

In all the confusion something like six minutes had elapsed, before the MC, Rufus Papenfus, announced that the fight would go on.

What the majority of the crowd failed to realise was that the fight was fought under the WBA rules which incorporated the “No Foul “rule.

Referee Christodoulou had doctors Noble and Labuschagne examine the cut and they advised that even though it was bad it could not cause blindness, so the fight could continue.

Kates had been in control until the stoppage for the cut, but from then on he was doomed as Galindez set a tremendous pace through all the rounds until in round 15 a left hook caught Kates flush on the jaw and he was counted out at 2 minutes 59 seconds into the round by South African referee Stan Christodoulou.

Another 17 years elapsed before American Orlando Canizales met the comparatively unknown Colombian Juvenal Berrio in defence of his IBF bantamweight title at the Carousel Casino gambling resort near Hammanskraal on November 20, 1993.

From the outset the champion who came in right on the bantamweight limit showed that he had no intention of going for a quick knockout as he carefully paced himself and showed pure class against the willing challenger.

Having the 13th defence of his crown the 28 year old Canizales was an easy winner after 12 rather uninteresting rounds.

Chris “Simply the Best” Eubank “ Roadshow” continued at the Sun City Superbowl in Bophuthatswana on October 15, 1994, but the British fighter failed to live up to his nickname as he retained the WB O super-middleweight title against American Dan Schommer, only because of the generosity of the judges.

The fight was a big yawn as Eubank spent more time posing than boxing, with the colourless Schommer throwing many more scoring punches from his southpaw stance.

At times Eubank ducked far below the 34-year-old Schommer’s waistline and his amateurish lunges were rather disappointing for a boxer of his status.

After the fight Eubank said he wouldn’t have complained if the fight had been called a draw, or even if Schommer had won.

Even though this is one of the select few fights between foreigners in South African boxing history it has faded away in the memory and possibly is best forgotten.


In “world” title fight number six between two foreigners in South Africa, Namibia’s Harry Simon the complete underdog going into his fight with American Ronald Lamont “Winky” Wright, caused a major upset when he scored a disputed 12 rounds points decision over Wright to claim the WBO junior-middleweight title at the Carousel Casino gambling resort near Hammanskraal on August 22, 1998.

Confusion reigned after the decision was announced as a majority draw, with Wright retaining the title.

However judge Julie Lederman from the USA pointed out that her score had been announced incorrectly as 114-114 when it should have been 115-113 for Simon.

Fight supervisor Cliff Dikeni re-checked her card and found out that round four had been incorrectly collated as 10-9 for Wright when it should have been for Simon.

Despite the confusion in announcing the decision the fight was thrilling right through with Simon attacking from the first bell and keeping up a tremendous pace which had the champion on the back foot for most of the 12 rounds and Simon eventually emerged as a popular winner.

Wright will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota in in the Modern Category in June this year.

What about Harry Simon also being inducted into the Hall of Fame as he would go on to win the WBO middleweight title and retired undefeated in an outstanding career.


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