Can Wilhelm Nebe be the next South African heavyweight hope?
There is an old saying: If the heavyweights are doing great, boxing does great.
South Africa has a long history of producing world class heayweights.
During the late seventies and early eighties South African heavyweight boxing experienced a golden age. Quality heavyweights like Mike Schutte, Kallie Knoetze and Gerrie Coetzee all cracked the world rankings at various stages and squared off against each other, making for some memorable battles. Coetzee proved the best of the bunch and when the “Boksburg Bomber” upset Michael Dokes in 1983 to become the WBA world champion, one could have been forgiven for thinking that boxing was the national sport; such was the interest that it created.
The late eighties and early nineties saw the rise of the charismatic Johnny du Plooy and the teak tough Pierre Coetzer. Both scored some memorable international wins before engaging in one of the most savage wars seen in a local ring. Coetzer prevailed with an off the canvass second round victory in a memorable shootout.
They were followed by Francois Botha and Corrie Sanders.
Botha, known as “The White Buffalo,” campaigned extensively overseas and fought a who’s who of the best heavyweights of his era, including Michael Moorer, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Shannon Briggs and Wladimir Klitschko, for the most part giving a very good account of himself.
It was Corrie Sanders, however, who made the world stop and take notice when he upset future great, Wladimir Klitschko in 2003, destroying the Ukrainian in two rounds to become WBO world champion. Sanders would go out on his shield the following year when he was stopped in eight rounds by Vitali Klitschko, after wobbling the elder brother in the first round. That fight was for the vacant WBC and Ring world titles and marked the last time that a South African heavyweight was involved in a fight of major international significance.
It has been a long 17 years since and South Africa is yet to produce another heavyweight to set the public imagination on fire, let alone win a world title.
Enter the 25-year-old giant, Wilhelm “The Dragon” Nebe. Standing almost seven foot tall in his socks, Nebe, who hails from Potchefstroom, had only five amateur fights, lasting a total of five rounds. That handful of amateur rounds took him all the way to the South African title, a dire indictment of the state of the division.
With no competition in the amateur ranks, Nebe had little choice but to turn pro in 2018 under the capable hands of Alan Toweel jr.
So far, so good. Although crude and wild in his first fights and carrying a lot of extra weight, the young Nebe racked off five wins, all but one of them ending in the first round.
Most importantly, he has shown significant improvement in his last fight, a first round demolition of Jean Pierre Steenkamp at Emperor’s Palace.
Gone was the excess weight, Nebe weighing in 16 kilograms lighter than his previous fight. Even though the fight was over quickly, he displayed a jab for the first time and his technique was tighter, without the wild swings.
Both Toweel and Nebe knows that there is a long road ahead, but the youngster is dedicated to his craft and committed to improving in every fight.
He will need to keep the upward trajectory going if he is to get past his next opponent on 25 September at Emperor’s Palace. He will be taking on the more experienced Josh “Red Beast” Pretorius, who represents a significant step up in class.
Although the smaller man, Pretorius has a respectable 7-5 record with six knockouts and has fought everyone available on the local scene. In his last fight in December, he dropped a 12-round decision to Tian Fick for the South African title. He has only been stopped once by Flo Simba at the start of his career and has given the likes of Chris Thompson and Justice Siliga all they could handle.
Will Nebe keep the wins coming or will he come apart at the seams when faced with a more seasoned opponent?
Will he emerge as South Africa’s next heavyweight hope?
Tune in on Supersport to find out!