Phindile Mwelase, 31, the South African female professional boxer, died on October 28, 2014 following a knockout punch by Liz Butler. Mwelase failed to emerge from a two-week coma.
It was the second death of a professional female boxer caused by trauma gotten in the ring - in April, 2005 Becky Zerlentes, 34, of Fort Collins, Colorado became the first woman to die from boxing match injuries in a sanctioned bout. Two more cases are known of female fighters died after ring traumas: 240-pound Stacy Young died in June 2003 after traumas gotten from her opponent, Sarah Kobie in an amateur boxing match in Florida. In July 2010 kickboxer Adrienne Simmons died after being felled by a fatal punch to the head during a championship fight against Lindsay Scheer in a Muay Thai match.
On October 10, aspiring South African light-welterweight professional boxer, Phindile Mwelase entered the ring for the fourth time seeking her first victory against 44-year-old veteran Liz Butler. However, at the beginning of the sixth round, she slumped to the canvas after Butler’s punch and never managed to get up from there. She was carried to a local hospital and had to be moved to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital where she was to undergo an operation to try and stop the bleeding in her brain. Subsequently, she slipped into a coma from which she never recovered. On October 25 at a hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, she died of the injuries that she sustained in the contest, she was 31.
Reuters quoted the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, who stated, “She joined a sport that is predominately male, and was proving that women can also succeed in boxing.” Of course, the president was cunning because Mwelase lost all her five bouts in the professional ring and died after getting punched.
Liz Butler was distraught about the outcome of her boxing match with Phindile Mwelase, while the young boxer was fighting for her life at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria. "I am down mentally and grossly disturbed," said Butler.
"I pray every night for Phindile to recover. It could have happened to me. It really hurts that she is in a hospital bed fighting for her life." Butler, a personal trainer, said Mwelase came to fight and win. "At one stage I thought she was going to knock me out," she said.
Her trainer, Charles Backhouse, who visited Mwelase yesterday, described her condition as sad.
"Mwelase caught Liz with very good shots and Liz held her own in what was a very competitive fight. "If you look at Liz's face you can see she was in a fight. Every trainer wants their boxer to win, but not that the opponent must be injured."
The Sunday Times earlier this year reported that Loyiso Mtya, acting CEO of Boxing SA, had been accused of forging the fight records of local women boxers in an attempt to make them look sufficiently experienced for national title fights. Neither Mwelase's nor Butler's names were mentioned in connection with this accusation. Mtya denied the claims. He has since been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.
Phindile Mwelase delivers a punch against Liz Butler in their fatal match
Photo from The Citizen