- Boxing leaders at the sport’s Hall of Fame were saddened by the death of Simiso Buthelezi.
- The 24-year-old fighter died two days after fighting a WBF national title match in South Africa.
- “It’s very sad,” matchmaker and boxing promoter Sampson Lewkowicz said. “I’m so sorry.”
CANASTOTA, NY — Boxing leaders at the Hall of Fame in Canastota told Insider they were saddened at the recent death of the 24-year-old fighter Simiso Buthelezi.
The South African novice died June 7, just days after competing in a WBF African lightweight title match against Siphesihle Mntungwa at the Greville Convention Center in Durban, 350 miles southeast of Johannesburg.
Buthelezi appeared to be winning the bout and even punched Mntungwa through the ropes in the 10th and final round.
However, before Mtungwa fell, he caught Buthelezi with a counter left hand, which seemed to disorient the fighter.
‘It’s sad,’ Hall of Fame broadcaster Al Bernstein said
When the referee called for the action to resume, Buthlezi began boxing an imaginary opponent, as seen on video. The fight was called off, and he was taken to King Edward VIII Hospital nearby. He died two days after the fight.
“It’s sad,” Hall of Fame broadcaster Al Bernstein from Showtime Sports told Insider recently.
“Those are the moments when you just shake your head and say, ‘Ah, man.’ This sport does a lot of good. It helps a lot of young men and women, but it’s got inherent dangers.”
Boxing historian, record-keeper, and programmer Bob Yalen told us it’s “a flat-out tragedy.”
“Any boxing injury and boxing death is a tragedy. I’ve kept track of them for many years,” he said. “It’s obviously a dangerous sport, and you have to be prepared for that going in. You never ever want to see something like that.”
Yalen said he advocates the introduction of a “red card” system, which would allow a doctor to hold up a red card and stop the fight immediately.
“I’m in favor of stuff like that,” Yalen, the former CEO of MTK Global, said. “Safety for the fighter has to be first.”
He added: “Obviously, you saw on video what happened. He was fighting … and then all of a sudden he was fighting nobody.”
‘No one deserves to die’ in boxing
Buthelezi’s death, and similar tragedies that have occurred before this, are “part of our business,” according to matchmaker and boxing promoter Sampson Lewkowicz.
The 71-year-old — who is credited for discovering Manny Pacquiao, and is the force behind rising stars David Benavidez and Sebastian Fundora — noted that athletes die in other sports like car racing.
Lewkowicz said that these tragedies do not just occur in Africa, but have happened worldwide.
“It’s part of the game. And this is the reason I respect all of the boxers because it’s not just sweat and blood in the gym, but in the ring, too,” he said.
“My message is that we must respect all the fighters. He gave us his life knowing he might die. No one deserves to die” in this sport, he said. “It’s very sad. I’m so sorry.”