All that Dingaan “The Rose of Soweto” Thobela needed to do was to survive his 12-rounder against Tony “Tiger” Lopez at Sun City on June 26 1993 to claim the WBA lightweight belt the beloved local fighter had been robbed of in their first fight in Sacramento, US, on February 12 the same year.
Their eagerly awaited rematch was aptly named “Judgement Day”. Lopez had been done a favour by local judges back home in the US when his unification bout against IBF holder Brian Mitchell was declared a draw on March 15 1991.
They met again in Sacramento on September 13 and this time there was no way that the judges would deny the hard-working South African his victory.
When Lopez had to travel to SA to face Thobela a second time, the pressure this time was on the American to knock Thobela clean out to retain his WBA belt. He fought brilliantly and actually deserved to win on points, only to be given a taste of his own medicine.
Thobela won his second title, his first being the WBO strap he won in the US against Mauricio Aceves in 1990. His victory against Lopez – just like all his previous wins – brought traffic to a standstill around the country.
That is how much people loved Thobela.
He lost the WBA title in his first defence to Russian Orzubek Nazarov at Nasrec Arena on October 30 1993. They met again in 1994 at the Carousel Casino in Hammanskraal and Thobela – who batted to make the weight – lost on points again.
Thobela moved up to the welterweights where he won the WBC International and IBO titles but was not crowned because he had failed to make the required weight limit.
With his weight ballooning, Thobela moved up to the super-middleweight class where he won the WBC belt in Brakpan on September 1 2000.
That win made him the first local boxer to win the green and gold WBC belt on African soil.
Thobela lost it to Dave Hilton in Canada in his first defence and that defeat was followed by six more losses, which prompted him to quit in 2006.