Venerable SA boxing writer and historian Ron Jackson will be honoured at the “Reach for the Stars” fight night at Emperors Palace on August 10. Having attended his first fight almost 70 years ago, Jackson is well placed to recall past greats and talk about the state of boxing.
How old were you when you attended your first boxing event in SA?
I was 13-years-old. On September 23, 1949 at the Pam Brink Stadium in Springs – George Hunter beat Freddie Vorster to retain the SA light-heavyweight title.
You’re now aged 81 – how many fights do you reckon you’ve watched live?
I will be 82 on August 20. It could be between 2000 to 3000 as at one time I attended every tournament possible and saw 200 fights in a year.
Do you have an all-time favourite SA boxer?
How about four? Mike Holt, Andries Steyn, Brian Mitchell and Vuyani Bungu.
What about internationally?
Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis.
Which fight is the best you ever saw live?
November 3, 1973 – Arnold Taylor won KO 14 against Romeo Anaya for the WBA bantamweight title and May 22, 1976 when Victor Galindez won via KO 15 against Richie Kates, retaining the WBA light-heavyweight title.
You’re a man who loves history. If you could have attended any old-time fight, which would it have been?
October 16, 1909 – when Jack Johnson won via 12th round KO against Stanley Ketchell to retain the world heavyweight title.
Which local boxer have you been most disappointed with?
Benny Nieuwenhuizen, a one-time SA welterweight champion who had all the talent and could have achieved far more.
Which old-time SA boxer do you believe would have been a superstar today?
Johnny Ralph had everything going for him and he had charisma.
What do you make of the proliferation of titles and organisations?
The multiple organisations have detracted from world championship boxing and very seldom do you have an undisputed world champion. The average fan has lost interest in boxing due to the proliferation of so-called world titles
Who is SA boxing’s current pound-for-pound king?
Without a doubt, Zolani Tete.
You are a boxing historian and you collect boxing books. If you were packing for a desert island, which three would you take along?
The Fighters by Chris Greyvenstein, The Untold Story of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens by Donald McRae, A tribute to Muhammad Ali – Greatest of all time by Benedict Taschen.
If you could invite any three people to dinner, who would they be and why?
Don King, Rodney Berman and Sugar Ray Leonard.
Any final thoughts?
I have had a wonderful journey with boxing since 1949 and writing about the sport for more than 35 years and watching some outstanding fights live and on television. Plus meeting some great fighters and people in boxing and also dragging my wife through cemeteries and libraries making a study of bare-knuckle fighting in England and rummaging through bookshops for new and old books all over the world.
Thanks for your time, and congratulations on a great life in boxing.