Willie Lock, one of the great trainers in South African boxing history, passed away in Benoni on Thursday after a long illness. He was 84.
Willie was born in Boksburg on 5 February 1933 and, together with his brother Peter, joined an amateur boxing club in Boksburg.
Willie never boxed as a pro but his brother fought with limited success as a professional lightweight from 1958 to 1960.
Peter went on to become an outstanding referee, whereas Willie concentrated on training fighters.
One of Willie’s finest achievements was taking Peter Mathebula to winning the WBA flyweight title in Los Angeles in December 1980 against the Korean Tae Shik Kim on a 15-round split decision. At the time there were only two major boxing organisations, the World Boxing Association and the World Boxing Council.
Going into what was literally a cauldron at the Olympic Auditorium, the Korean spectators were baying for Mathebula’s blood.
Despite the hostile atmosphere, the quiet confidence and corner work by Lock pulled the gutsy Mathebula through to an historic victory. Mathebula became the first black South African fighter to win a world title.
In March 1981, at an awards ceremony held at the Sunnyside Park Hotel in Johannesburg, Mathebula received the prestigious South African/King Korn “Fighter of the Year” award and Lock received the trophy as “Man of the Year”, both for 1980.
Another of Willie’s outstanding achievements was the training and guiding of South African and WBA heavyweight champion Gerrie Coetzee, considered by many to be the greatest South African heavyweight fighter of all-time.
Working from his gym in Yeo Street in Yeoville for many years, Willie trained and produced champions like Sarel Aucamp, Harold Volbrect, Aaron Kabi, Soon Botes, Gerhard Botes, Danny Myburgh, and Giovanni Pretorius. He also trained Hansie van Rooyen, Johnny du Plooy and the big tough heavyweight Johnny Britz.