Elijah Makhathini (1942 - )
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Profile of Elijah Makhathini
Elijah Makhathini was born on 3 October 1942, in Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal.
Coming from a humble background and with little formal education, Makhathini started working at an early age to contribute to the well-being of the family. At a time when there were few alternative opportunities for sport and recreation for black people, Makhathini took to boxing at the local gym to keep fit. Soon his grace and speed in the ring made him a recognisable and popular participant at amateur boxing matches.
Despite the prowess he displayed in the ring early on, he was to wait until February 1971, by which time he was 29 years old, before he was able to claim professional status as a middleweight.
In his first professional bout Makhathini beat a leading boxer named Phuthumakuboni on a technical knockout in the 5th round, which was a portend of the success he was to enjoy over the next few years. In the same year he won 12 fights in a row – a feat unprecedented at the time – before being held to a draw over 10 rounds by Joseph Sishi. The following year at Currie’s Fountain in Durban, he beat his first international opponent, the then former world welterweight champion Curtis Cokes. Thereafter followed a string of further successes in the ring. In August 1974, “Tap Tap” as he became popularly known, fought and beat Juarez de Lima. A year later he out-boxed former world welterweight and middleweight champion Emile Griffith. In 1976 Elijah knocked out Victor Ntloko in the 7th round to win the SA black middleweight title. When he knocked out Jan Kies in three rounds at the Rand Stadium later in the same year, he became South Africa’s first undisputed national middleweight champion, a title he successfully defended twice in1977. Although he lost that title in 1978 to Doug Lumley in Durban, he continued with exceptional performances in the ring, remaining unbeaten in seven fights in the same year. In 1979 he beat the formidable Charlie Weir by a knockout in the 8th round.
Makhathini retired from professional boxing in 1980, still the reigning South African champion in the super middleweight division.
In Elijah Makhathini’s relatively short professional boxing career, he achieved the success which few professional boxers enjoy in much longer careers. He remains a South African sporting hero and symbol of accomplishment and triumph in the face of adversity.