Tribute to Namibia’s friend: Dingaan Thobela, ‘The Rose of Soweto’ 

Nestor Thobias (left) with ring announcer Absalom Shihepo and Dingaan Thobela. Photo: contributed

Dingaan Thobela was found dead in Johannesburg on Monday. Known as the ‘Rose of Soweto’, Thobela (57) won three world titles, and played a pivotal role in the establishment of professional boxing in Namibia.

I first met Dingaan Thobela at Portugal Hall during the South African amateur championship.

Our paths crossed again in Johannesburg, when Harry Simon and I were working towards getting our boxing licences in 1992, where I also had the pleasure of meeting Dingaan’s coach, Norman Hlabane.

Our true friendship began in 1993, when Dingaan invited us to Sun City for his second fight against Tony Lopez.

To me, Dingaan was the number one fighter in Africa; not only was he a good boxer, but he was also a three-time world champion, claiming the WBA, WBO, and WBC titles in the lightweight and super middleweight divisions.

Although South Aafrica (SA) has produced numerous talented boxers, the Rose of Soweto was truly in a class of his own.

In my opinion, he was the most skilled boxer to emerge from SA, if not the entire African continent.

Dingaan was always a vibrant individual – funny, friendly and eager to be involved in any boxing-related activity.

His connection to Namibia ran deep; he even fought under a Namibian boxing licence in Canada, where he showed his love to Namibia.

We trained together when he was preparing for his fight against Tony Lopez in the United States, and despite his evident talent and experience as a professional boxer, we enjoyed sparring together.

To me, Dingaan wasn’t merely a friend of Namibia – he was one of us.

He formed an integral part of the MTC Nestor Sunshine Boxing Academy from the very beginning, where I appointed him as board member due to his expansive knowledge of the sport.

He played a pivotal role in helping us establish connections with top promoters in the world and was responsible for introducing Harry to Brian Mitchell, which led to Harry becoming a world champion.

Dingaan’s popularity transcended borders, particularly in the 1990s, when even the late president Nelson Mandela sent him a letter of congratulations from prison upon winning his first world title.

Our friendship extended beyond the boxing ring, as we often spent hours playing pool at his house in Sandton, SA, our competitive spirits keeping us up until the early hours of the morning.

Dingaan’s loss is felt deeply by Namibia and the world.

His significant contributions to the development of Namibian boxing, including his instrumental role in the academy’s founding and fostering relationships with influential figures like late president Hage Geingob, leave a lasting legacy.

Upon hearing of his passing, I was overcome with sadness.

May his soul rest in perfect peace, knowing that his extraordinary impact on the boxing world and the lives he touched will never be forgotten.”

– Nestor Tobias is a renowned top boxing promoter from Namibia and the founder of the MTC Nestor Sunshine Tobias Boxing and Fitness Academy.

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