‘Terror’ inspired a generation
JOHANNESBURG – The general narrative around Peter “Terror” Mathebula has been that while he was a great boxer, but his lack of discipline ensured he lost his WBA flyweight title in his first defence.
It has been said that upon making history by becoming the first black South African man to win a world boxing title, by beating South Korea’s Tae Kim Shik in Los Angeles in 1980, Mathebula - who died aged 67 on Saturday - slacked off in his training and ate carelessly.
No wonder, they say, he went down in the seventh round against Argentinian Santos Lacier at Orlando Stadium in 1981.
Dr Peter Ngatane, a long-serving member of the sport who fought out of the Dube Club in his youth, says nothing could be further from the truth.
“All that happened after Terror became champion was that his handlers failed him. For those of us on the outside, looking in we saw it as a case of him not being given the opportunity to defend his title.”
Ngatane reasons that being during the height of apartheid, it appeared the whites were perhaps not really pleased to have a black man enjoying such success.
“His white trainer and handlers should have known that the guy should have gone into a camp for the title defence. And instead they kept parading him all over, taking him to white municipalities and dinners. People say he ate a lot but that only happened because he was being taken to party after party in suits even during the week when he should have been training.’
Ngatane says the most worrying factor about the parades was that none of them were in the black communities which Mathebula inspired.
“None of the townships got to have Terror brought to them to celebrate him. Why was that? Before he became champion, his trainers took the build up seriously. They were experienced boxing men and you would think they would have known that you need to work even harder for a defence.”
His failure to defend his title notwithstanding, Ngatane said Mathebula should always be remembered as a great boxer who inspired a lot of boxers.
“The likes of Jan Bergman from the West Rand where Terror came from took the sport up thanks to his success.”@Tshiliboy