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Forgotten Warriors: Drake Thadzi

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  • Forgotten Warriors: Drake Thadzi

    The best boxer to come out of Malawi, and the only one noteworthy at that, was and is Drake Thadzi. Thadzi was a fine light heavyweight whose greatest achievement was beating James Toney on points in 1997, winning the IBO title at the same time. He also fought twice for a world title, unsuccessfully, against Virgil Hill in 1995 and Dariusz Michalczewski in 1998, which was his last fight. He was a late bloomer and early on his career wasn't that successful and nothing hinted that he could go on to beat someone like James Toney. He also stopped John Scully just after that, which is his second best victory.

    Known under the moniker of "Nightmare", Drake Thadzi was born in Lilongwe, capital of Malawi, 23 November 1964. As amateur, he represented his country at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. After getting through the first round on walk-over, he lost in the second round on points to Mustafa Moussa of Algeria, who then won a bronze medal. Thadzi turned pro at the tail-end of that year, 28 December, winning by KO2 in an easy fight in Malawi. His first 6 fights were all in Malawi, and in the 7th he went to Canada to fight Ken Barlow, who was debuting as a pro, and beat him by TKO2, 7 July 1987. He relocated to Shediac in New Brunswick, Canada from then on and again beat Barlow by TKO3 in their second fight. He then drew against Darrell Flint, one of the best Canadian boxers back then. He was 8-0-1 when he lost for the first time, to Sadik Sulemana of Ghana, by TKO4 on 24 November '87. Sulemana had only one loss and this would be his final fight. Thadzi then started fighting in USA and scored six straight knockouts before losing again on points to Alfred Cole, the future IBF cruiserweight champion, 12 September 1989 in Atlantic City. Cole was a very tall and clever fighter, as well as durable. Thadzi experienced his second ko loss against Wesley Reid in a fight for the New England title, losing by KO4 on 19 January 1990 in Taunton, USA. After losing to former WBA-champ Leslie Stewart by UD10 in February '91, Thadzi captured the Canadian title by stopping Danny Stonewalker by TKO8 in August. He would never defend the title and it remained vacant until 1997!

    In his next fight, he won the New England title that had eluded him before, in an easy fight against 6-24-4 Jimmy Harrison, winning by TKO5. He was knocked out again by Art Bayliss in 8 rounds in 1992 and lost decisions to Adolpho Washington and Ernest Mateen, both in 1993, before winning 4 fights and then surprisingly being chosen as the defense of the WBA-champion Virgil "Quicksilver" Hill. The fight was on Wembley Stadium 2 September 1995, on the undercard of Frank Bruno vs Oliver McCall. After the 12 rounds were completed, Hill retained his title with the scores of 118-112, 119-110 and 117-111. Thadzi was absent from the ring for a year before returning in late 1996 and stopping Darrell Flint in a rematch by TKO9. His great victory finally happened on 14 May 1997, when he fought James "Lights Out" Toney for the vacant IBO title. Toney failed to make the weight however, so the title was only on the line for Thadzi. It was at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket that Thadzi made history as the first Malawi-born fighter to win a world boxing title (albeit a minor one) when he got a majority decision over Toney. The scores were 116-112, 116-113 and 114-114. For unknown reasons, Thadzi was away for over a year from the ring following this fight, before making his first and only defense against John "Iceman" Skully, a tough and experienced fighter, 2 August '98 in Boston. Thadzi became the first and only man to stop Scully by TKO7 after giving him a beating. This would be his final achievement and victory. He then received a fight from the WBO-champion Dariusz "Tiger" Michalczewski, who had reigned since 1994. He naturally had to go to Germany as DM had issues with fighting abroad. It was 12 December that year at Ballsporthalle in Frankfurt and the 14th defense of the Polish-born champion. Thadzi the underdog surprised by outboxing the rather stiff champion for most of the first 8 rounds, before Michalczewski exploded in the 9th and hit Thadzi with a barrage of punches which brought forth stoppage, which looked a tad premature. Thadzi was 34 now and retired, knowing that he would likely not get another world title shot. He left behind a record of 30 wins with 25 ko's, 9 losses (4 by ko), and 1 draw.

    Drake Thadzi was a capable and hard-hitting fighter who was trained and managed by Goody Petronelli, known as Marvin Hagler's trainer along with his brother Pat. His career was marked by ups and downs and was slow to take off, but when it did, he proved he was world class. After he beat Toney, Toney would remain undefeated for the next 9 years and the man who beat him was a heavyweight! Although Toney was likely not in his best shape, it was still an impressive achiement to get the nod over a fighter like James Toney in America. It is reported that due to Petronelli's inability to get more fights for him after that fight, Thadzi had to go inactive for too long and thus his prime was shortened. I hope you enjoyed this presentation.


  • #2
    --- I did enjoy more than the superb presentation.

    Never knew Drake was African!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by LondonRingRules View Post
      --- I did enjoy more than the superb presentation.

      Never knew Drake was African!
      Thank you very much. Not just African, but from Malawi! He has a pretty cool name. Wonder how his last name is pronounced...either "tadgee" or "tadzee".

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