News June 09, 2022 at 10:00 am

‘It was bizarre’: SA boxer seen fighting imaginary opponent during bout dies

Francis Akhalbey | Content Manager

Francis Akhalbey June 09, 2022 at 10:00 am

June 09, 2022 at 10:00 am | News

Simiso Buthelezi, 24, died after he was placed in an induced coma -- Image via Twitter

A South African boxer who was seen fighting an imaginary opponent during a professional bout passed away on Tuesday after he suffered a brain injury, Boxing South Africa announced, per ESPN.

Simiso Buthelezi, 24, was on Sunday placed in an induced coma after he was rushed to the hospital. That was after the referee prematurely ended the fight. The deceased boxer was vying for the WBF All Africa lightweight title when the incident occurred. A video of the fight shows Buthelezi, who’s on the attack, suddenly becoming disoriented after his opponent falls on the ropes.

“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 on 7 June in hospital in Durban [South Africa],” Boxing South Africa said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Towards the end of his bout, Mr Buthelezi collapsed and was taken to hospital and it was discovered that he suffered a brain injury which resulted in internal bleeding. At the hospital, Mr Buthelezi was given the best care possible but he succumbed to the injury.”

The circumstances surrounding Buthelezi’s brain injury are unclear as he did not sustain any serious head blows during the fight. His trainer, Bheki Mngomezulu, also said Buthelezi did not have any health concerns before the fight.

“There wasn’t anything untoward in the fight and in training. He was leading the fight on points before the unfortunate incident occurred,” Mngomezulu said, according to News24. “I really can’t explain what happened, to be honest. It was bewildering, but in his training and in the build-up to the fight, there was nothing untoward with regards to his condition. He was in good nick before the fight.” 

Boxing South Africa announced they will initiate an independent medical review of what transpired. The incident also made headlines in the boxing world as Buthelezi’s symptoms were confusing.

Buthelezi’s opponent, Siphesihle Mntungwa, did not really pose a threat during the most stages of the fight, ESPN reported. But during the final minute of the 10-round fight, Buthelezi, who was trying to land punches, started shadow boxing after Mntungwa fell on the ropes. The referee quickly ended the fight before medics were called.

In an interview with the news outlet, ring announcer Sipho Mashego said Buthelezi was dominating the fight, and the crowd was “dumbfounded” by what transpired. “Simiso was dictating terms, he was actually controlling the fight from Round 1. He didn’t take any punishment from his opponent,” Mashegoo said.

“But this was the last round, with 14 seconds to go, and his opponent fell out of the ring. [Buthelezi] then started swinging wildly, and no-one understood what was going on. It was bizarre.”

Buthelezi held a degree in botany and zoology after recently graduating from the university.

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