Jan Bergman was a lightning fast boxer from Toekomsrus with dynamite in either hand. Coming through the ranks, he looked like one of South Africa’s best prospects for world honors.
He won the South African junior welterweight title in 1993 by outpointing the tough veteran, Aaron Kabi. He recorded several impressive wins over international opponents, including a stoppage of former WBO junior lightweight champion, Kamel Bou-Ali, as well as another victory over Kabi sandwiched in between before finally landing a shot at the IBF junior welterweight world title in 1996.
Unfortunately, the champion was the formidable Kostya Tszyu whom he faced in his backyard in Australia. He fought his heart out and gave the fans some exciting moments before getting knocked out in the sixth round.
He regrouped and after a few wins, including a memorable war against the always tough Naas Scheepers, got a second chance at the vacant IBF world title in 2000. Once again, the mountain in front of him was a high one to climb because this time around he faced the ultra-talented American, Zab Judah in the US.
Once again, the fight was all action. Bergman rose from the canvass twice in the first round and then put Judah down in the second before being knocked out himself in the fourth round. His career at the top seemed over.
Bergman, however, had other ideas but he had to prove that he was still a dynamic force to be reckoned with. He was matched against a hungry young lion in a local showdown at Carnival City. His opponent was South African welterweight champion, Joseph Makaringe, a heavy-handed slugger with 12 knockouts on his 15-1 ledger. Makaringe had won the title by stopping Virgil Kalakoda in ten rounds and had defended it by knocking out Tshepo Mashego in five. His only loss was a close decision against Christian Bladt in Denmark that many felt should have gone his way. If Bergman was on the slide or no longer had the stomach for the hurt business, Makaringe would be the one to make the wheels come off.
It was not to be, as Bergman showed everyone that he was still head and shoulders above any local opposition at and around his weight. The fight was just heating up when, in the third round, Bergman nailed Makaringe with a perfect left hook right on the button. Makaringe landed flat on his back, out for the count!
This was another one of those victories that looked even better as time went by, since Makaringe still went on to have a successful career. He developed into a fine national champion, making ten successful defenses of his welterweight title, scoring two victories over former WBU and IBO welterweight champion, Peter Malinga, in the process. He retired in 2007 after dropping a decision to Isaac Hlatshwayo for the vacant IBO welterweight title. Makaringe ended his career with a very respectable record of 30-4 with no less than 25 knockouts, Bergman being the only man to beat him inside the distance.
Bergman got a consolation price in the form of a shot at the vacant WBU welterweight title. He put Guillermo Mosquera down twice in the sixth and made him retire in his corner to finally capture a world belt.
He made two defenses of his WBU title before vacating it to challenge Jawaid Khaliq for the IBO welterweight title. He was stopped in the seventh round of a war with both men hitting the canvass several times
He had his last fight in 2010 at the age of 40, stopping Gottlieb Shileka in three rounds in Namibia before finally retiring with a record of 44-5 with 33 knockouts.
At his best, Bergman was a marvel to watch with excellent hand speed, solid all-round boxing skills and knockout power to boot. He is still a familiar face at ringside.