SA boxing champ Vic Toweel dies in Sydney

Former world bantamweight boxing champion Vic Toweel, arguably one of the best fighters South Africa has ever produced, died in Sydney, Australia, on Friday morning.

Toweel, who was 80, settled in Australia about 20 years ago. He was one of the famous Toweel brothers. Willie, the only one who is still alive, fought for a world title, Alan was a top trainer, Maurice an outstanding matchmaker and Jimmy a South African champion.

Victor Anthony Toweel was born on January 12 1929 in Benoni.
He was the second-eldest of six brothers and the son of Michael Joseph Toweel, who was of Lebanese descent.

Michael Toweel, better known as Pappa Mike, changed the course of South African boxing history in a make-shift corrugated-iron gymnasium, at No 12 Balfour Avenue, Benoni.

It was there, in the backyard of his home, that he taught his sons, Jimmy, Victor, Alan, Willie and Fraser, the basic rudiments of the gloved art and forged a family legacy that is without parallel in the annals of the ring.

Vic Toweel was South Africa’s first and only undisputed world boxing champion. His greatness as a fighter was expounded by the fact that he fought in an era when there were only eight divisions with eight world champions compared with today’s 17 divisions and more or less 70 world champions.

Vic, in his only fourth fight as a professional, won the South African bantamweight title.

In his ninth fight he became the South African featherweight champion. He captured the British Empire bantamweight title in his 11th fight.

On May 31 1950, in his 14th fight, at the tender age of 21, he won the world bantamweight championship.

Vic beat the great Manuel Ortiz who was recognised as one of the greatest bantamweight champions of all time. At that stage, Manuel Ortiz was a veteran of 110 fights whereas Vic had had only fought 13 contests as a professional.

On that night, he placed South African sport in the international limelight .

During his reign as a world champion, Toweel—also referred to as “The White Henry Armstrong”—had 13 bouts consisting of three successful title defences and 10 successful non-title fights against world-rated contenders.

He successfully defended his world title against Danny O’Sullivan (KO 10), whom he dropped 14 times, winning him a place in the Guinness World Records book for the most knockdowns in a world title fight.

His second and third title defences were against Luis Romero (won 15) and Peter Keenan (won 15). A drastically weight-weakened Vic was dethroned by Jimmy Caruthers in his fourth title defence.

He was brilliant as an amateur where he won Springbok colours, fought in the 1948 Olympic Games in London and compiled an unbelievable record of 188 wins with only two losses—160 by knockout.

He was an instinctive boxer and fighter who, at his best, flaunted incredible stamina, perfect balance and a blazing work ethic. His greatest asset as a fighter was his ability to throw non-stop batteries of punches without tiring.

He was a gentleman to the core, inside and outside the ring, and to most boxing experts, he remains the greatest pound for pound fighter ever to have been produced in South Africa.

Willie Toweel said: “I’d like on behalf of the Toweel family to thank all the South Africa public for their support over the years. We are heartbroken to see Viccie go but know that he lived life to the full and left his mark in the world. May his soul rest in peace.”—Sapa

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