It is with great sadness that we learned this morning of the passing of the legendary boxing organic intellectual, Mzimasi Mnguni. Mnguni passed away this morning in East London following a long illness.
As we reflect on his life and times, reminisce about his distinguished contribution to the sport of boxing and to nation building we remind ourselves of the timeless words of our founding democratic President, Mr. Nelson Rholihlahla Mandela when he said:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand.”
The advent of forced removals from Duncan Village to Mdantsane in the late sixties and seventies – had the unintended consequences of galvanizing and catalyzing boxing in the new township.
Mzi Mnguni landed and was immediately immersed in this cacophonous – tumultuous – and exciting melee. By and large, the vast township presented its own challenges but boxing was in vogue – a people’s way of life.
Whether by chance or accident – it is difficult to fathom – Mzi took over the mantle of the-then Modern Boxing Club and aptly renamed it the Eyethu Boxing Club. A businessman of note – he brought business acumen to boxing. He brought discipline to his beloved Eyethu Boxing Club. Every boxer is a learner – that was his mantra – you cannot be an uneducated boxer. As a boxer at Eyethu – one was not allowed to drink and smoke. In years to come – this would be the basis of his massive success as a manager and promoter of boxing in the country.
In his major pioneering effort in boxing – he engineered a boxing management and promotional agreement with Rodney Berman – the doyen of the Golden Gloves boxing promotional outfit. This path-breaking arrangement catapulted South African boxing into the international arena. Through this agreement, East London – Eastern Cape – and the country produced world champions of the Welcome Ncita – Vuyani Bungu – Hawk Makhepula – ilk. To a greater extent – this agreement marked a paradigm shift in the business of boxing in this country. In earnest, it marked the re-emergence of South African boxing in the international arena.
Mzimasi Mnguni was the catalyst who ignited the beginning of a great era for South African boxing. Mzi and his contemporaries heralded a golden and glorious age in South African boxing.
In boxing, he was regarded as a “wily fox” who was never eager for cheap deals. He was never ready to risk his boxers on career damaging fights. Suave, streetwise, and sophisticated in the business of boxing, he managed all his fighters wisely. He negotiated big boxing deals for all his fighters.
The enigma and organic intellectual – produced and shaped by his circumstance and conditions – that was Mzimasi Mnguni is no more and gone from our midst – he will be immortalized.
He has joined the pantheon of his predecessors who have graced the South African boxing orbit; – just like he did when as Boxing South Africa we honoured him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.
We realized – a long time ago – that he was ahead of our time in the boxing environment. He was futures literate, a phenomenon – a rollercoaster whose time had come.
The Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Mr. Nathi Mthethwa has typified Mzi’s passing as “terrible news of the loss of this icon. A household name even for people who were not in boxing.” He joins the South African community in celebrating the life of this colossus. He has also deeply expressed sympathies to his family, friends and the entire boxing community for such a massive loss.
Jola – Qengeba – Ngcwina – Ntose you came to our sport as a fresh breadth – you breathed life into our flagging fortunes. Boxing is bigger, richer, because of your selflessness and your righteous disposition. In boxing circles, we know you had a big heart, you cared for us, you and your gracious wife, Sis’ Lindi, cared for impoverished families. Boxing is poorer without you.
We the living have a responsibility to emulate your example, epitomize the values you embodied in our collective journey to renew and grow the sport you served par excellence.
You will be sorely missed.
On behalf of Boxing South Africa
Mr. Luthando Jack
Chairperson: Boxing South Africa