PIONEER Peter Mathebula, the first black South African to win a world title, passed away last month (January 18) at the age of 67. He had been suffering from ill health for some time.
Born in the township of Mohlakeng to the west of Johannesburg, Mathebula fought during the apartheid era. The crowning glory of his 12-year professional career came in December 1980 when he upset South Korea’s Tae-Shik Kim on a split decision in Los Angeles to become the WBA flyweight champion.
Although he would lose the belt in his maiden defence three months later – via seventh-round stoppage to decorated Argentine Santos Laciar – his name had already been etched into South African sporting history.
Mathebula, nicknamed “Terror”, retired at 31 years old with a record of 36 wins and nine defeats, before going on to work as a trainer. Tragically, just five days after his death, his wife, Emma Mathebula, also died. A joint funeral service was held for the couple on January 28.