By Ron Jackson

Arthur Mayisela was one of the most charismatic fighters and one of the biggest drawcards in SA boxing during the early 1980s. He seemed destined to follow the classic rags-to-riches route, but rather sadly this did not happen.

Born in Soweto on 20 September 1953, it was reported that he was undefeated in 68 amateur bouts before making his pro debut against Nkululeko Nkosi on 22 March 1980 at the Jabulani Amphitheatre in Soweto, winning on a third-round knockout.

He would go on to win his next eight fights in style which included points win over the talented Jeffrey Mankune before travelling to Durban where he suffered his first loss on 28 June 1982 against Jerome Gumede who beat him on points over six rounds.

Putting this setback behind him he was in outstanding form in his next fight on 4 September 1982 when he beat the experienced Ernest “Duke” Moledi (16-2-1) on a unanimous ten-round points decision to win the Transvaal lightweight title.

In a clash that was voted the SA Boxing World and King Korn Fight of the Year on a cold and wet, rainy night at the Wembley Indoor Sports Arena in Johannesburg on 1 November 1982 he fought to a disputed eight-round draw with Brett Taylor.

Mayisela dropped another decision when he lost to Peter Gumede, but he won the SA junior welterweight title by knocking out Mzwandile Biyana in the eighth round in Mdantsane, East London, on 16 April 1983.

However, two and a half months later, also in Mdantsane, he lost the title on a split decision against one of the legends of SA boxing, Nkosana “Happyboy” Mgxaji. Billy Lotter, who was advising Mayisela and his trainer Ali Hlope, complained that it was a hometown decision, and the SA Boxing Board ordered a rematch.

They met in February 1984, but Mgxaji failed to make the weight and forfeited the title, which Mayisela regained when Mgxaji’s corner signalled to referee Fanie van Zyl that he was unable to continue after the ninth round.

Fighter of the year

Mayisela was most impressive in beating Adolfo Rossi from Argentina and Najib Daho of England. He also beat Stephen Balene in two rounds and retained the SA title against Julius Mwana and Brian Baronet. As a result, he was installed at No 7 on the WBA rankings list and was voted as the 1985 SA Fighter of the Year.

But his career just did not run smoothly. He weighed in 1.4 kg over the limit for the defence of his national title against Brett Taylor on 8 February 1986. He was given two hours to lose the excess weight and succeeded by jogging up and down the six floors to the Old Buck Auditorium in Kerk Street, Johannesburg, and spending time in a sauna.

Boxing legend Arthur Mayisela vs Harold Volbrecht

Mayisela did well in the earlier rounds, but the dehydration had weakened him, and he lost on a split decision to a superbly conditioned opponent. It was later said he had had weight problems before fighting Baronet. He was spotted running around the Sun City grounds wearing thick clothing.

But soon there was another chance to make good money: he could challenge Harold Volbrecht for the SA welterweight title. In the heavier division, weight would not be a problem.

Volbrecht, a veteran southpaw and an excellent counter puncher, would make the 16th defence of his title and after only four defeats in 44 fights he was the favourite.

Drama at the Sun City Superbowl

About 6 000 spectators watched the fight in the Sun City Superbowl on 14 June 1986. Volbrecht retained his title thanks to a technical draw after he was forced to withdraw at the start of the sixth round.

After three even rounds there was a clash of heads in the fourth and a nasty gash opened above Volbrecht’s left eye. The champion indicated to the referee that he was unhappy, but referee Alfred Buqwana let the fight continue without cautioning Mayisela for what may have been an accidental head butt.

When the bell rang for the start of the sixth round, Volbrecht was still in his corner and his trainer, Carlos Jacomo, was trying to stop the blood. Joe Jivhuhu, the Boxing Board’s doctor, examined the cut and advised that the fight be stopped.

Mayisela had already done his now familiar victory roll on the canvas when ring announcer Tony Naidoo declared that the result was a technical draw which was booed by the fans who felt that Mayisela should have been declared the winner and new champion.

Three months later Mayisela knocked out Venezuelan Antonio Guerrero in the third round.

After the controversial ending to the Volbrecht fight, three days later, on 17 September 1986, he signed a contract for a return fight against Volbrecht. It was reported that he stood to earn R50 000, the biggest purse of his career.

Crash On the highway

On his way home from the Boxing Board’s offices one of the tyres on his car blew on the M2 to Meadowlands. Mayisela got out to take the spare wheel from the trunk when another vehicle crashed into his, crushing him against the car. He died in a Hillbrow Hospital later that night.

Thousands of people lined the streets and hundreds of fighters in boxing gear ran the 10 km from the church in Meadowlands to the Avalon cemetery where he was buried.

Earlier in his career, Mayisela was working at a large printing and supplies company when he was asked once why he was boxing as a professional. He said he was looking for a better future for his family – his wife, their son, his elderly mother, and an disabled brother. He also sent his wife, Maria, to a secretarial school.

His finished his career with a record of 20-4-2, including 16 wins inside the distance, when he died.  –

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