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World Boxing Federation Champions Of The Past: Zolani Marali
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FEATURE   Photo: Former World Boxing Federation (WBF) World Light Welterweight Champion Zolani "Untouchable" Marali. 

Since the World Boxing Federation was originally founded by American Larry Carrier in 1988, many of the sport’s biggest names have won a WBF title, and proudly defended the blue, red and gold belt all over the world.

In the Champions Of The Past Series we take a closer look at some of the boxers who held WBF titles in years gone by, from lesser known champions to world renowned fighters, legends of the sport and current or future Hall of Famers.


Despite never reaching the absolute top as an amateur, with bronze in the 1999 All-Africa games perhaps his biggest accomplishment, Zolani Marali turned professional at twenty-three in February of 2001 with solid expectations on his shoulders.

An awkward southpaw with good power in both hands, from Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, Marali was nicknamed “untouchable” and considered to have a style probably more suited for the paid code.

In reality he was headed for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia when he tested positive for cannabis and was kicked off the South African team. Not willing to wait another four years for the next Olympics, he decided to turn pro.

From a family of five kids, Zolani was mainly raised by his single father, as his mother left the family when he was twelve. While things were not always easy, his hard-working father brought them up well and was able to send the children to school.

As a teenager, Zolani was inspired to take up boxing by his older brother Mzukisi Marali, a world class professional who challenged for the WBC World Light Flyweight crown in 1997 and fought Peter Culshaw for the WBU title in 1998, before the Englishman became WBF World Champion.

When Zolani made his pro debut on February 25, 2001 at the Mdantsane Indoor Centre, stopping Andile Sota (7-7-4) in six rounds, Mzukisi was in the final stages of his own career, and had fought his penultimate bout just a week earlier.

Inside eighteen months Zolani developed into one of the most promising prospects in South Africa, and beat the likes of Torina Ngqiyasa (11-2-1), Lulama Titise (11-3) and former South African national champion Xolani Ndleleni (14-3-4) on his way to a 9-0 (8) record and a crack at the South African Super Bantamweight title.

On November 15, 2002 at the Graceland Hotel Casino in Secunda, Marali prevailed in a hard fight to dethrone reigning title-holder Oupa Lubisi (13-3-1) by unanimous decision. After only ten pro fights, he was already knocking on the door of the world scene.

The following April, Marali stayed busy with a first round destruction of Zuko Mtyongwe (12-2-1), and not long after it was announced by promoter Rodney Berman that he would be thrown in at the deep end against Argentinean Pastor Maurin (47-5), on July 11 in Carnival City.

On the line would be the vacant IBO World Super Bantamweight title, and Maurin, who had lost on points to Michael Brodie for the WBF World Featherweight title the previous year, was by far the best opponent so far for Marali. But the South African passed the test with flying colors and prevailed by unanimous decision.

Unfortunately, he lost the title already in his first defense, ten months later back in Carnival City, when compatriot Thomas “The Rock” Mashaba (14-1-4), who had taken over as South African champion, stopped him in eight rounds in something of an upset.

The loss was a major set-back for Marali, but, while the ride would be up and down, he had many more big nights ahead of him.

Before 2004 was out he regained the South African Super Bantamweight title against Bonani Hlwatika (17-3-1), and, while he was not as active as he would have liked, kept winning against good opponents as he moved up in weight to secure a shot at the IBO World Super Featherweight title in July of 2008.

In Newcastle, Australia he faced Billy Dib (20-0) and floored the local man in the third round, before losing a close and highly controversial decision. Many felt Marali clearly deserved the victory, and after protesting the result a rematch was ordered.

Dib chose to relinquish the title rather than face Marali again, so on April 2, 2009 “Untouchable” became a two-time, two-weight world champion when he widely out-pointed Mexican Gamaliel Diaz (24-8-2) for the vacant title in Kempton Park, South Africa.

Five months later at the same venue, again in his first title-defense, Marali lost the IBO World Super Featherweight title to yet another underdog, this time Ji Hoon Kim (18-5), a hard-punching South Korean nicknamed “Volcano” who was riding a ten-fight winning streak but not expected to trouble the champion.

Kim stopped Marali in nine rounds of a tough fight, so when the now former two-time world champion was somehow allowed to fight Mlungisi Dlamini (20-0-1) for the vacant IBO World Lightweight title only six weeks later it was no surprise when he lost again, this time in the fourth round.

At this point it would have been easy to write Marali off, after two devastating defeats. But in April of 2010 he revived his career when he upset hot prospect Kgotla “Bang Bang” Baeti (19-1) with a split decision. Suddenly he was back in the mix, and the best was yet to come!

Marali was looking to get a second chance to win a world Lightweight title, but instead he was sidelined and had to move up in weight yet again. Finally, in the fall of 2011 he secured the big fight he was looking for, against Ali Funeka (30-3-3) for the vacant World Boxing Federation (WBF) World Light Welterweight title.

The fight took place on November 19 at the Monte Casino in Johannesburg, on a huge bill featuring six WBF championship fights. Both boxers fought valiantly in what was a close affair, but in the end Funeka got the nod and was declared the winner by split decision.

Again believing he was wrongfully denied victory, Marali immediately called for a rematch. Negotiations started, but it would be more than a year before the two rivals finally squared off again, on December 8, 2012, at the Orient Theater in East London (S.A.).

A few days after the first fight with Funeka, Zolani´s brother Mzukisi, his biggest role-model and supporter, was stabbed to death, bringing the entire Marali family into turmoil and grief.

His world in tatters, Zolani would not have been in a state to fight in the months that followed, but he eventually used the tragedy as his inspiration and put everything into reaching his goal of winning a third world championship in his brothers honor.

And win he did, taking home the World Boxing Federation (WBF) World Light Welterweight title by unanimous decision after an excellent performance. Zolani Marali was far from done, and now a three-time world champion.

Marali made two successful defenses of the WBF World title, both in East London. In September of 2013 he out-boxed Mzolisi Yoyo (21-4), and in July of 2014 he edged former world champion Kaizer Mabuza (25-11-3) by split decision.

For whatever reason, a long spell of inactivity followed and Marali never lost the WBF World title in the ring. His final fight was in October of 2015, losing a decision to undefeated future unified world champion (IBF & WBA) Julius Indongo (17-0) in Namibia.

A former two-time South African Super Bantamweight Champion, IBO World Super Bantamweight Champion, IBO World Super Featherweight Champion and WBF World Light Welterweight Champion, Zolani Marali´s final record stands at 24-6 (13).  

  Part 67: Nicky Bentz
  Part 66: James Hare
  Part 65: Anne Sophie Mathis
  Part 64: Earl Butler
  Part 63: Dave Russell
  Part 62: Tony Dodson
  Part 61: Pete Taliaferro
  Part 60: Fredrik Alvarez
  Part 59: Ajose Olusegun
  Part 58: Chevelle Hallback
  Part 57: Evander Holyfield
  Part 56: Peter Culshaw
  Part 55: Rolando Toyogon
  Part 54: Joaquin Velasquez
  Part 53: Steve Molitor
  Part 52: Nadya Hokmi
  Part 51: Bert Cooper
  Part 50: Alfred Kotey
  Part 49: Yosuke Nishijima
  Part 48: Wayne Rigby
  Part 47: Jesus Chong
  Part 46: Renata Szebeledi
  Part 45: Lester Ellis
  Part 44: Patrick Vungbo
  Part 43: Patrick Washington
  Part 42: Ric Siodora
  Part 41: Guy Waters
  Part 40: Natascha Ragosina
  Part 39: Nicky Cook
  Part 38: Fahprakorb Rakkiatgym
  Part 37: Felix Camacho
  Part 36: Homer Gibbins
  Part 35: Joe Bugner
  Part 34: Myriam Lamare
  Part 33: Darrin Morris
  Part 32: Suwito Lagola
  Part 31: Aaron Zarate
  Part 30: Tommy Small
  Part 29: Matthew Charleston
  Part 28: Jane Couch
  Part 27: Fahlan Sakkreerin
  Part 26: Kenny Keene
  Part 25: Yvan Mendy
  Part 24: Ronnie Magramo
  Part 23: Randall Yonker
  Part 22: Holly Holm
  Part 21: Vinnie Curto
  Part 20: Robin Reid
  Part 19: Lionel Butler
  Part 18: Mads Larsen
  Part 17: Ken Sigurani
  Part 16: Orlando Fernandez
  Part 15: Roger Turner
  Part 14: Roy Jones Jr.
  Part 13: Fitz Vanderpool
  Part 12: Steve Roberts
  Part 11: Thulani "Sugarboy" Malinga
  Part 10: Junior Witter
  Part 9: Jimmy Thunder
  Part 8: Juan Lazcano
  Part 7: Jeff Malcolm
  Part 6: Ricky Parkey
  Part 5: Carl Daniels
  Part 4: Angel Manfredy
  Part 3: Samson Dutch Boy Gym
  Part 2: Greg Haugen
  Part 1: Johnny Nelson

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