BEST I FACED: WELCOME NCITA
04 JAN 2021
BY ANSON WAINWRIGHT
Welcome Ncita is regarded in South African boxing circles as one of the most talented fighters the country has ever produced. He rose to prominence winning a junior featherweight title in the early 1990s.
Ncita was born in East London on the Eastern Cape of South Africa on October 21, 1965. He is the sixth-born child of eight. His father was a truck driver, while his mother was a housewife and looked after the family.
“Just like any other kid, playing in the street, I was playing soccer, not boxing,” Ncita told The Ring. “Boxing was introduced into schools in East London before it was only soccer, rugby etc. I needed something to do at school as a sport, so I said, ‘Let me go and try boxing.’ That’s where it started.”
Ncita fought a club mate of his brothers in an inter-school meet. The opponent was more experienced than Ncita, who fought him to a draw.
Ncita owns a solid resume, and gave boxing fans plenty of thrills in his 14 year stint.
“That’s when they noticed me and everybody started to talked about me,” he explained. “To me it didn’t mean anything because the one thing in my mind was soccer.”
Ncita focused more on soccer but his friends could see he had a natural aptitude for boxing and encouraged him to return to the gym.
He was approached by renowned talent spotter Mzi Mnguni about turning professional but first Ncita wanted to win a national title, which he did in 1982. Mnguni returned and convinced him to make the transition. Ncita had in the region of 250 amateur bouts, sometimes fighting twice a week. He lost very few of his matches: “To lose was not something that was part of my life even as an amateur.”
Ncita turned professional as a flyweight in March 1984. As he made his way up the ranks, his love affair with soccer continued.
“As a professional boxer I was still playing soccer,” he said. “They were always moaning at me, ‘Why are you doing this? You are going to lose your career; you’ll break your leg.’ But I wouldn’t listen, I would just go back and go to the gym, only when I had a fight, I’d train for a week or two.
“I’d fight and win and let’s say the fight was on a Saturday on the Sunday I’m back on the soccer field playing for a local club. That was up until I was going to fight for a provincial championship.”
He won the national title at 112 but eventually grew into a bantamweight. The late Cedric Kushner and Rodney Berman gave Ncita a feel of the International scene often putting him on the undercard of renowned stablemates Johnny DuPlooy or Brian Mitchell.
Brian Mitchell, Rodney Berman and Welcome Ncita all did more than their fair share to elevate boxing in South Africa.
Fighters Brian Mitchell and Welcome Ncita flank promoter Rodney Berman.
Ncita craved a world title fight and Kushner offered him a fight with either IBF 118-pound champion Orlando Canizales or IBF 122-pound beltholder Fabrice Benichou. Ncita accepted the second option and a deal was struck for him to face Benichou in Tel Aviv, Israel.
“To this day, the Benichou-Ncita fight is the only world title fight ever to have taken place in Israel,” said Berman. “The reason being that Benichou, a Moroccan Jew, wanted to defend in front of his people.
“Golden Gloves has a number of Jewish partners, one of the exceptions being Gary Pretorius. There we were in Israel, hoping our little fighter from the nondescript township of Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape, knocks the shit out of the Jewish fighter,” he said, laughing.
As is the local custom, the Jewish people visit the Wailing Wall.
“The local custom for a Jew visiting the Wailing Wall is to make a wish on paper and insert it in the wall,” continued Berman. “Gary was watching us and asks, ‘What are you guys doing?’ We explain the tradition to him and he says, ‘I need a skull cap and a pen and paper.’ He then proceeds to write his note and inserts it in the wall.
“The next night Welcome Ncita duly obliges and a jubilant Gary shouts, ‘That wall is something unbelievable, it really, really works,’ he said, chuckling. “His wish was that Welcome should win the world title, so he put it in the Wailing Wall.”
Ncita out-boxed Benichou to claim the title by hard fought but unanimous decision. Over the next two-and-a-half-years the “The Hawk” made six title defenses against the likes of Sugar Baby Rojas (SD 12 SD 12), Hurley Snead (UD 12) and Jesus Salud (UD 12).
Next up was burgeoning star, unbeaten American Kennedy McKinney–click here to see what McKinney had to say in his ‘Best I Faced’– who had won gold at the 1988 Olympics. Ncita was getting the better of things and lead on all three scorecards after 10 rounds. However, disaster struck late in the round when McKinney fought off the ropes and landed a picture-perfect right hand, knocking the proud South African cold.