Home Boxing History Nelson Mandela on Jake Tuli: Our greatest hero

Nelson Mandela on Jake Tuli: Our greatest hero

Jacob (Jake) Tuli
Born: Johannesburg, South Africa 7 July 1931.
Died: 24 November 1998 at the age of 67
Turned Pro: 29 April 1950 retired October 1967
Record: 47 fights, 31 wins (16 by KO/TKO) 14 losses, 2 draws
Beat: Teddy Gardner, Honore Pratesi, Vic Herman,
Lost to: Robert Cohen, Leo Espinosa, Dai Dower, Peter Keenan, Billy Raferty, George Bowes

-Held Transvaal non-white flyweight title, South African non-white flyweight title, South African non-white bantamweight title, British Empire (now Commonwealth) flyweight title
-Started boxing at local Boys Club then had his first amateur fight in 1946
-Had his first pro fight in April 1950
-Won the non-white South African bantamweight title in March 1952 and the non-white flyweight title in May 1952
– Under Apartheid laws there were separate titles for white and non-white boxers. Non-white fighters were not allowed to fight white fighters and there were separate gyms and separate boxing venues for white and non-white boxing cards with the black boxers having only the most rudimentary facilities available to them.
-After Tuli had won ten fights in South Africa in 1952 English manager Jim Wicks (manager of Henry Cooper and other British boxers) brought Tuli to England where there were no such restriction on black fighters
-in his first fight in England in September 1952 Tuli stopped world rated Teddy Gardner in the twelfth round to win the British Empire(Commonwealth flyweight title) becoming the first black South African fighter to win a major international title
-In November 1952 Tuli outpointed Frenchman Honore Pratesi over ten rounds and tragically Pratesi died just two days after the fight and Tuli donated his purse from a subsequent fight to Pratesi’s widow

-After compiling a 23-0-1 record Tuli lost for the first time when he was outpointed by future world bantamweight champion Robert Cohen whose record then was 29-1-2. Tuli was down four times and Cohen once.
– August 1954 Tuli lost on a ninth round retirement in Manila against world rated Leo Espinosa.
– He lost the Empire/Commonwealth title when outpointed by unbeaten Dai Dower in October 1954
-In September 1955 he had an epic battle with Peter Keenan in a football stadium in Glasgow. Tuli floored Keenan four times in the first round but Keenen survived and stopped Tuli in the fourteenth round.

– When one of Tuli’s sons fell ill in 1958 he was advised to take his son to a warmer country and returned to South Africa. Although he had earned enough to have bought a six room home in England he was only allowed to buy a house and live in one of the black townships.
– His career was effectively over and he was inactive for eight years and when he returned to the ring in 1966 had seven fights before retiring finally in October 1967.
– Over and above his success in the ring Tuli played a pioneering role that opened doors for other black sportspersons, and is widely regarded as one of the 10 greatest South African boxers of all time
-For Nelson Mandela, himself a boxer, Tuli was “our greatest hero”. In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela wrote: “[Tuli] was the most eloquent example of what African boxers could achieve if given the opportunity.”