Given this country’s rich boxing history, it’s a mystery why only two South Africans have been enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves is working hard to change this, which is why he’s petitioning the Boxing Writers Association of America and an international panel of boxing historians for Vuyani “The Beast” Bungu’s inclusion.
Bungu ranks among SA’s best boxers, having held the IBF junior-featherweight title for five years (1994 to 1999).
He captured the championship by shocking Olympic champion Kennedy McKinney, a fight Ring Magazine named the Upset of the Year. Bungu then defended the title 13 times before relinquishing the belt in 2000 to move up to featherweight to take on Naseem Hamed. He compiled a career record of 39-5-0.
“I can’t imagine a worthier candidate for inclusion,” said Berman. “For years, Vuyani carried the flag for SA boxing. More than that, he was a thorough gentleman, humble and dignified throughout his career.
“I couldn’t imagine a more fitting tribute to one of this country’s best sportsmen. He rose from the most impoverished circumstances to take his place in the boxing pantheon. It would be a shame for him to go unrecognised by the Hall of Fame.”
Only two South Africans have been inducted since the Hall of Fame opened in Canastota in 1990 – renowned referee Stan Christodoulou (2004) and world champion Brian Mitchell (2009).
Despite Berman’s plea, the reality is that with SA boxing it’s often a case of out of sight, out of mind.
Bungu, for instance, fought mostly at home and was seldom exposed to an international audience. But this shouldn’t discriminate against his excellence and longevity, which stacks up by any measure.
Berman himself, respected the world over, ought to be in contention for induction given his pre-eminence as South Africa’s finest promoter in history, having given opportunities to hundreds of boxers. More than that, he has often been a man alone in maintaining the profile of the sport internationally.
Over to you, Canastota.