On 6 November 1860 the first group of Indian indentured labourers arrived at the South Beach of the Port of Natal, which was later to become Durban.
According to reports, Durban’s population was made up of Europeans 4 129, Africans 2 252 and Indians 1 860.
Benny Singh, who was born in Durban on 28 December 1906, became known as the Father of African Boxing, and one of his greatest achievements was the lifting of the ban imposed on non-white boxing after the racial riots in Durban.
Benny fought as a lightweight from 1929 to 1935 and had 13 fights according to available records before becoming one of the leading promoters in South Africa.
Most of his fights were presented by JB Panday, who was also one of the best-known promoters in Durban.
Singh wrote two books. The first was “My Baby and Me.” the story of Willie Mbhata, and the other was “My Champions were Dark”.
Possibly the first recorded Indian fighter in South Africa was Jimmy O’Brien who, despite his Irish name, was an Indian and fought against Jack Moodley for the Natal Indian lightweight title on 11 May 1907 at the East Indian Theatre in Durban.
According to available records, Moodley had another eight fights up to February 1911 with only one win.
There were also claims that Moodley was the non-European featherweight and lightweight champion of South Africa. However, this has never been substantiated.
Among the Indian fighters who were active in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were Ranjit Singh (bantamweight), PM Pillay (flyweight), Kid Sathomoney (feather and lightweight champion of South Africa), Young John (flyweight), Kid Vengan (bantamweight), Lucky Maharaj (welterweight), Mottee Kid Singh (bantamweight), L. Veeran (flyweight), DD Naidoo (flyweight), VK Pillay, Young Sadow (lightweight), Young Pottier (bantamweight), and Red Moodley (welterweight).
Other Indian fighters who were active in the early years were Bob Narendas, Seaman Doorsammy, Angoo Pillay, Sooboo Chetty, Manicum Moodley, Thunga Moodley, Valoo Moodley, PMR Mistry, Ranjit Singh, Jack Govender, and Tollie Singh.
When Louis Joshua knocked out Sugar Makololo in the eighth round in Cape Town on 25 January 1956, for the vacant non-white bantamweight title, he became one of the few fighters of Indian descent to win a South African title.
Seaman Chetty, who claimed the non-white South African flyweight and bantamweight titles, was possibly the only Indian fighter to be world ranked when the Ring magazine of September 1938 listed him at number six flyweight in the world.
At the time, there were only eight divisions and The Ring ratings were the only recognised rankings in the world.
Whether he became the best South African boxer of Indian origin has been the subject of many a debate.
In recent years a professional Indian-born fighter is a rare commodity.
The only two I can recall are Neil Naidoo Thirunelil and Ricardo Hiraman.
Naidoo fought as a junior-welterweight from 1986 to 1989 in compiling a record of 6-5-2; 3 and Hiraman (born Rishi) fought from 2013 to 2014 to compile a record of 3-2; 3.