By MESULI ZIFO
SCORES of people lined the streets of East London, South Africa as Simpiwe Vetyeka, made his triumphant return from Australia where he caused one of the big upsets of the year by scoring a six rounds stoppage victory over previously undefeated Indonesian Chris John to take his WBA featherweight crown at Metro City, Perth Australia last Friday.
Cars blared horns while sirens of traffic police reverberated through the city as a convoy of cars stretching about a mile from the East London Airport accompanied Vetyeka and his team on its way to the City Hall for an official welcoming by the local government.
With boxing fans ululating and chanting slogans and songs, the scene was in contrast to the sombre atmosphere which had engulfed the province following the death of liberation leader Nelson Mandela a day before Vetyeka's historic win.
It was only befitting that Vetyeka achieved the feat to bring comfort to the region where Mandela was born and will be buried next Sunday.
I did this for Madiba and for the people of this region to wipe their tears in these trying times, Vetyeka said hoisting his WBA belt.
Vetyeka's stunning victory when the odds were heavily stacked against him rates as one the biggest boxing achievements of his country alongside Vuyani Bungu's upset of Kennedy McKinney when he took his IBF junior featherweight crown in 1994.
Coincidentally Bungu achieved the feat after getting inspiration from Mandela when he visited him before the fight.
Bungu went on to defend the belt a record 13 times to become South Africa's most successful boxer.
And on Friday Bungu, now a trainer, was on hand to guide Vetyeka in his own history- making feat with Mandela again serving as an inspiration to the South African team Down Under.
I reminded Vetyeka of what Mandela did for me before I fought McKinney and told him that his spirit will take him through against John, Bungu said.
Among others Vetyeka thanked Klaas Mboyane, an unheralded foe who surprisingly beat him in June last year for only his second defeat with the first being at the hands of Japanese Hozumi Hasegawa when he challenged for the WBC bantamweight title in 2007.
The loss to nobody like Mboyane brought everything into sharp focus and gave me a reality check on what I should do with my career. The thing is up until that time I was taking everything for granted and that loss jerked me back to life.
Despite beating John, Vetyeka has not assumed the super champion status the Indonesian held after ten years as the WBA champion.
Vetyeka's manager Andile Sidinile said he was still in talks with the WBA regarding the issue.Tags: Simpiwe Vetyeka