JOHANNESBURG – The last surviving member of the famour Toweel boxing family has died.
Willie Toweel took his last breath at his home on Christmas Day surrounded by his wife and all his children and grandchildren. He was 83.
Toweel, a South African Sports Hall of Famer, began boxing at the tender age of 14 and went on to become a renowned boxer the world over as he amassed titles at no less than four different weight levels.
In 1952 Toweel won a bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Helsinki.
He earned the right to fight for the world title against Frenchman Robert Cohen in 1955. Toweel, miraculously overcoming a second-round knockdown, dished out what many believed was a performance worthy of dethroning Cohen. The fight was scored a draw.
He went on to become the only South African to hold SA titles in four weight divisions - bantam, feather, light and welterweight. He also won the British Empire lightweight title.
He topped the bill at Madison Square Garden twice, the only South African to do so.
When he defended his SA featherwight title against a dear friend Hubert Essakow in 1956, his opponent was knocked out and never regained consciousness.
He died a few days later.
After retirement Willie Toweel, with his brothers Alan and Maurice trained many boxers, including professionals such as Sugarboy Malinga, Charlie Weir, Bruce MacIntyre, Piet Crous and Brian Mitchell.