South African lightweight title bout ends in tragedy
‘Winner’ suffering from depression and wants to kill himself.
The Invisible Man fight started off as a viral social media oddity, the stuff of smirking entertainment, but ended in the sad and harsh reality of another boxer dying as a result of injuries sustained in the ring.
The dangers of boxing head injuries are often overlooked when we see two well-match opponents displaying exciting fighting prowess, skill, and movement – the sweet science – super-fit gladiators, each giving as good as they get, roared on by highly charged crowds enjoying the action.
But this weekend we saw the flip side to the sport in graphic detail during the bizarre denouement to the South African lightweight title bout between Simiso Buthelezi and Siphesile Mntungwa in Durban and its tragic aftermath.
Buthelezi was 4-1 coming into the contest and had the best of the fight going into the 10th round, leading on points, and looking good for the title. Halfway through the round, he mounted an attack that sent Mntungwa (7-1-2) through the ropes, but on the retreat, his opponent delivered a hard jab to Buthelezi’s jaw. As the referee called for a break to bring Mntungwa back into the ring, the 24-year-old Buthelezi suddenly and inexplicably wheeled away before coming square on to the referee and then heading towards the other side of the ring, where he threw a barrage of punches at an ‘invisible’ opponent (see video below)
The referee immediately waved off the contest as Mntungwa cartwheeled around the ring in celebration of his ‘victory.’
But clearly, all was not well and concern for the fighter mounted as he stood, head bowed, leaning on the top ropes, looking totally exhausted before slumping to the canvas, where doctors administered oxygen before the fighter lost consciousness and was rushed to hospital.
Word quickly spread, as video of the incident went viral around the world, that Buthelezi would need a miracle to survive as he was suffering from a bleed on the brain. He was placed in an induced coma, but died two days later from his injuries, the stricken fighter never having regained consciousness.
Boxing South Africa released a joint statement with Buthelezi’s family which said: “It is with great sadness for Boxing South Africa and the Buthelezi family to announce the passing away of Mr. Simiso Buthelezi who passed away last night June 7 2022 at a hospital in Durban.
In a PostScript to Buthelezi’s tragic passing, his opponent, Siphesile Mntungwa, said that he had contemplated suicide following Buthelezi’s death
“I just can’t take it anymore. One thing is left for me — I am going to kill myself,” the 27-year-old boxer said.
“I came under heavy criticism and insults on social media platforms when Buthelezi was hospitalized; it has taken another level now that he has passed away. People have branded me a killer. “
“Even my neighbors have posted very ugly messages about me on social media. I am no longer safe. I did not kill him; we may have been involved in a boxing fight but it was not a matter of life and death.”
Except that in the ring, tragically, it can be.