Yesterday was a mixed day. I met a South African legend and said goodbye to a Greenford and District Scout legend (I have paid tribute to RJ on facebooks and will now take time to reflect on my meeting last night with one of South Africa’s own.) Here I am with Brian Mitchell – helping to raise funds for SRRS (Schools Reading Road Show.)
Brian didn’t have the best of starts in life, sent away to boarding school at just 6 years old, times were tough for a nipper. Then his mum manages to get him to Jeppe, but books weren’t his forte and a few scraps mapped out his future – he started to box.
He was an amateur from 9-19 when he joined the army. He became Defence Force Champion in 1981 and turned Pro. He went on to become WBA Junior Lightweight Champion in SA and in 1986 aged just 25 he took a bash at the World Title against Alfredo Layne.
“It was all thanks to Sol Kerzner, I’m not sure how he did it, back in those days,” said Mitchell, “But he got the fight here to South Africa and I’m not sure how, but I won.”
The WBA wanted to strip him of the title because of the sanctions on sport in the country at the time, and after a court battle they eventually allowed him to keep the title, but he would have to defend his title on foreign soils.
He went on to remain undefeated in 13 fights as WBA Champion and when asked which was his hardest opponent he said unhesitantly Jose Rivera.
He stated that his proudest moments were meeting the likes of Princess Charleen of Monaco, Silvester Stalone, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard. But the one that touched him most was when President Nelson Mandela flew him down to Cape Town to have a personal audience with him.
“Thanks to boxing, it was a great journey.”
He is the only South African to date to have entered the Boxing Hall of Fame (2009).
So there you have it two legends in one day.