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Boxing | History

© Jake Tuli

SA Boxing Hall of Fame

When Chris Lessing died on 1 June 1976 at the age of 43, at the Garden City Clinic in Johannesburg, he left behind a superb collection of boxing books, autographed photos of famous boxers, 16mm films, and memorabilia, including statuettes, trophies, and signed gloves.

Subsequently his collection was donated to the South Africa Boxing Board of Control, who established a Chris Lessing Boxing Museum, which was housed at their offices in the Fattis and Monis Building in Johannesburg. The museum was under the curatorship of long-time sports writer Bill Bosch.

On 12 October 1979, at the official opening of the museum, the first ever South African Boxing Hall of Fame was established.

Ten boxers were inducted into the Hall of Fame and it was reported that elections to the Hall of Fame would be held on an annual basis. However, this never happened.

The Boxing Hall of Fame was divided into three categories: the Pioneer Group for boxers who were active before the first World War, the Old-timers Group for boxers who fought between the two World Wars, and the Modern Group for boxers who were active after the Second World War.

The first ten ring greats to be honoured were:

Pioneer Group – James Robertson Couper and Arthur Douglas.
Old-timers Group – Don McCorkindale, Ben Foord, Willie Smith, and Laurie Stevens. Modern Group – Vic Toweel, Arnold Taylor, Jake Tuli, and Pierre Fourie.

Subsequently, the museum was downsized when the Boxing Control Board moved offices to Nasrec and then Midrand.

A number of items from the museum are still held by Boxing South Africa at their offices in Pretoria. However, over the years many items have gone missing.

There is a story, which has never been substantiated, that at one time a leading boxer visited the museum and remarked that the gloves that were marked as being those of the Welshman Jimmy Wilde, considered by many to be the greatest world flyweight champion of all-time, were not a pair, as they were both left-hand gloves.

Rather sadly, in recent years there has been very little interest in establishing another South African Boxing Hall of Fame.

About a year ago a South African Boxing Hall of Fame of sorts was established at the Sun City Resort in the Pilansberg in the Northern Province.

However, this is not a Hall of Fame in the true sense, as there are no annual elections and inductions in the various groups.

Brian Mitchell, South Africa’s most successful boxer of all-time, is the host and conducts interviews with well-known South African fighters at the venue.

However, this could be the beginning of a proper Boxing Hall of Fame like the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota.

There are a number of Hall of Fames around the world, like the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Riversdale, California; Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame in Belfast, New York; and the International Woman’s Boxing Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Numerous cities and countries around the world have their Hall of Fames for boxing and it is about time that South Africa has their own one to honour some of our great fighters and boxing people.

Only two South Africans, Stan Christodoulou and Brian Mitchell, have been honoured world- wide.

Christodoulou was inducted into the non-participants category of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota in 2007, and Brian Mitchell was inducted into the Modern category by the International Boxing Hall of Fame and World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009.


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