South African boxing legend Willie Toweel passed away at his home on Christmas night at the age of 83, reported South African TV channel SuperSport.
Described by Rocky Marciano as the “white Sugar Ray”, Willie was the last of the fighting Toweels.
His brother, Vic, was South Africa’s only undisputed world champion.
SA’s first WBC world champion Thulani “Sugarboy” Malinga's manager and trainer Willie Toweel passed away at his home yesterday night pic.twitter.com/SRxpYwZ2eU— PowerSport (@Power987Sport) 26 December 2017
Willie was born in Benoni on 6 April 1934. He was trained by his father “Papa Mike” Toweel.
In 1952, Toweel won an Olympic flyweight bronze at the Helsinki Games.
Toweel made his professional debut in Johannesburg in May 1953. He defeated Jackie O’Connor over five rounds.
As a professional, he won his first six fights before defeating Matthew Raaf to claim the SA bantamweight title.
On 3 September 1955, a 22-year-old Toweel contested the world bantamweight crown, the same his brother held year before, against Robert Cohen, a French Algerian. The bout ended in a draw. It is remembered as one of Africa’s greatest boxing matches.
After 23 fights, in December 1955, Toweel experienced his first defeat as a professional against Johnny van Rensburg in a bout for the SA and Empire lightweight titles.
On 20 November 1959, he became the first South African to head the bill at Madison Square Garden. He fought against American boxer Lenny Matthews, winning on points.
In 1960, at the age of 27, he hung up his gloves with a record of 46-6-2.
Toweel later became a successful manager. He trained world champions Brian Mitchell and Thulani “Sugarboy” Malinga.
A couple of hours after his passing, tributes began circulating to remember the boxing legend.
The sad News has broken that SA boxing legend Willie Toweel has passed away.— World Sports Betting (@WorldSportsBet) 26 December 2017
Willie was first South African to top a bill at Madison Square Garden in New York and will be sadly missed!
Condolences to Mr Toweel’s family and friends...
RIP Willie pic.twitter.com/xb6qg9ZkdF
Just seen the sad news about the passing of Willie Toweel. Taught me how to box, was a great teacher, fighter & legend of SA #Boxing Rest in Peace coach #willietoweel #southafricanboxing https://t.co/ArQHgRMu4K pic.twitter.com/NVlunjmpnZ— Ash Davies (@AshleighDavies2) 26 December 2017