Victory was considered a mere formality for Charlie Weir when he stepped into the ring at the New Kingsmead Soccer Stadium in Durban to face the 36-year-old veteran, Elijah “Tap Tap” Makhatini. Weir was 16-1 with 13 knockouts, having reversed his only loss against Joseph Hali. He started the year with victories over former British and European middleweight champion, Kevin Finnegan, as well as American Mike Colbert and the momentum was clearly in his favor.
Weir was, in fact, scheduled to face German, Frank Wissenbach, who got injured ten days before the fight. With tickets sold, the ill-fated decision was made to use Makhatini as a late replacement.
With a record of 44-8-2 at the time, Makhatini was the South African middleweight champion and more experienced but he was coming off a points loss to Gert Steyn in a non-title fight and even though he had wins over faded versions of Curtis Cokes and Emile Griffith, those were years ago.
He did, however, still have dynamite in his left hook, thrown from his southpaw stance. It was that punch that found the jaw of Weir and knocked him cold in the eighth round, giving Makhatini one of his most memorable victories.
He had one more significant victory, a fourth-round knockout of American, Gary Guiden, in his next fight before fading from the scene, retiring in 1980 after losing to Doug Lumley.
The popular “Tap Tap” was a trailblazer and the most popular black fighter in an era where boxing began to flout the Apartheid laws, introducing multi-racial fights. Sadly, the right opportunities came too late in his career.
The loss caused Weir to break with trainer Willie Toweel and replace him with Billy Lotter. Lotter sent Weir to the US on a trip financed by promoter, Golden Gloves, where he spent some time working with famed trainer, Cus D’Amato, along with former opponent, Bushy Bester. On their return, they told of meeting a phenomenal 12-year-old prodigy training under D’Amato, by the name of Mike Tyson.
Weir resurrected his career and morphed into a more controlled boxer-puncher. After racking up 13 consecutive victories, all inside the distance, his big day finally arrived but more about that later..