The Free State boxing fraternity is mourning the passing on of Bloemfontein-based boxer Johnny Oliphant.
His death on Tuesday, 7 December, came as a shock to staunch followers of the sport.
Oliphant died after a short illness.
He was not active in the professional rank at the time, having had to go into early retirement because of the huge drought facing professional fighters in South Africa.
However, he was involved in the development and training of budding boxers.
At the time of his death, Oliphant was an employee of the provincial Department of Arts, Culture, Sport and Recreation.
In 2005, Oliphant graduated to the elite rank from amateur with a winning reputation and impressive record in the junior flyweight division.
In 2006, the diminutive fighter went on to be crowned the national champion of Baby Champs, an introductory project for newcomers to professional boxing by Boxing South Africa (BSA).
He was one of four Free State boxers to compete. Other boxers that participated included Themba Ntsele, Motsoake Moselesele and Mosalo Ramaebeebe.
Oliphant outclassed tough opponents such as the likes of Philasande Makalima and Christopher Mayekiso to win the crown.
The closest Oliphant ever came to winning a national championship was in 2007, when he lost via knockout to Mfundo Gwayana in the elimination for the South African junior flyweight crown.
Despite having not won any prestigious South African and international titles, Oliphant will be remembered as one of the finest boxers of his generation.
“We are saddened that the pioneer of Dream Team Gym boxing, Oliphant, is no more,” said Lebohang Mohoko, managing director of the gymnasium.
“He was among the first boxers who we signed in 2006 when we started with our boxing promotions.
“His commitment to the sport inspired his younger brother Andries, who was a mini flyweight prospect.
“We as the gym wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to Oliphant’s family and friends,” he said.