CAPE TOWN - Former South African heavyweight champion Jimmy Abbott, aged 61, died of heart failure at his Gauteng home on Sunday evening.
According to medics who rushed to the scene to offer assistance, Abbott had difficulty breathing and suffered severe heart failure.
In recent years, Abbott suffered three heart attacks and a stroke. He lost so much weight and was down to 170kg a year ago. He was at his heaviest when he weighed close on to 400kgs.
He made his professional debut in June 1978 with a TKO win against Frans Manyaniso at the Showgrounds Bull Ring, Bloemfontein.
Abbott, ring named 'Jumbo' retired from boxing in March 1983 when he defeated Argentinian Juan Antonio Musladino on points at the Good Hope Centre, in Cape Town.
Puncher turned preacher Jimmy Abbott died in Heidelberg last night. The ex-SA heavyweight champion was a hellacious puncher who enlivened the SA boxing scene in the 70s and 80s before settling down as an evangelist. RIP Jumbo.— Clinton van der Berg (@ClintonV) March 22, 2021
His fight record of 26 bouts included 19 wins, five losses and two draws.
Nineteen of the 26 wins came via knock-out and he was only stopped once in five defeats.
His biggest career win was against Kallie Knoetze, alias the 'Die Bek van Boomstraat', and a former world heavyweight boxing contender. The bout took place in March 1980 at the Ellis Park tennis stadium. It still rates as one of the most sought-after heavyweight match-ups of all time in the annals of local boxing.
Sadly Jimmy Abbott passed away🙏Everything about Jimmy was big! His stature, his love for the Lions, his devotion to the Lord. Mooi loop my vriend, tot ons weer ontmoet🙏— Kobus Wiese (@4KobusWiese) March 22, 2021
Abbott flattened Kallie Knoetze in the first round. Sometime after that bout, Abbott told the media: “After I knocked out Kallie Knoetze in one round, I thought I would become a world champion.”
After this bout, Abbott had a world ranking of No 9 but over the next 18 months, his form slumped and suffered a winless streak which included two defeats and three defeats.
After hanging up his boxing gloves, Abbott was lured to professional wrestling and he was hugely popular although he never reached great heights in the paid game.