Today, 15 August 2018, marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of Vic Toweel, who was South Africa’s first and only undisputed boxing world champion.
Born in Benoni on 12 January 1928, Victor Toweel was the second eldest of six brothers and the son of Michael Joseph Toweel, who was of Lebanese descent.
Their father taught the boys the basics of boxing in a makeshift gym in their back yard, and all of them achieved success in the sport to varying degrees.
However, ‘Vic’ would go on to enjoy the most stellar career of all the Toweels, winning various amateur titles at both regional and national level in the early to mid 1940s, before going on to represent South Africa at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, though he was eliminated in the first round.
After returning from the Olympics he turned professional and had his first official fight in January 1949, stopping Johannes Landman in the second round – on the same night, his brother Jimmy Toweel won the national lightweight championship.
‘Vic’ went on to win the SA bantamweight and featherweight titles, as well as the British Empire bantamweight title.
His career peaked on 31 May 1950, at age 22, when he won the undisputed bantamweight world championship by defeating Manuel Ortiz in Johannesburg.
Toweel’s triumph was a surprising one to the outside world, as Ortiz was far more experienced at a professional level (110 fights compared to the South African’s 13) and was also regarded as one of the greatest bantamweight champions of all time.
During his reign as a world champion, Toweel had 13 bouts, consisting of three successful title defences and 10 successful non-title fights against world rated contenders. He lost the belt to Australian Jimmy Carruthers in 1952.
His career wound down from then on and Toweel retired from boxing a few months shy of his 27th birthday, ending with a pro record of 28-3-1 (14).
The former champion emigrated to Australia in the 1980s and passed away at age 79 in Sydney, Australia, exactly 10 years ago.
The Toweel boxing legacy is continued in South Africa by Victor’s nephew Alan (named after his father), who runs the Alan Toweel Boxing Gym in Johannesburg.