DINGAAN THOBELA: One of several world-class Black fighters to emerge during the last years of apartheid. PHOTO COURTESY OF FACEBOOK

Johannesburg (AP) – South African boxer Dingaan Thobela, a two-weight world champion known as “The Rose of Soweto,” has died, the ministry of sports said on April 30. He was 57.

Thobela won the WBO lightweight title in 1990 and the WBA lightweight title in 1993, when he beat American Tony Lopez in a rematch. He moved up to super-middleweight and beat Britain’s Glenn Catley for the WBC belt with a 12th-round stoppage in 2000, his finest moment.

He finished with a professional record of 40 wins, 14 losses and two draws.

Thobela hailed from the famed Johannesburg township of Soweto and was widely popular in his home country as his rise coincided with South African boxing’s heyday in the 1980s and 1990s.

He was one of several worldclass Black fighters to emerge during the last years of apartheid, when boxing was one of the few South African sports to allow Black athletes to compete on the world stage and gain international recognition.

Thobela’s death came days after South Africa marked the 30th anniversary of the end of the apartheid system of racial segregation, which was officially dismantled in 1994.

“As we celebrate 30 years of South African democracy, we mourn the loss of an athlete who did so much to elevate South African sport through his success in boxing,” Sports Minister Zizi Kodwa said.

“We also celebrate a champion boxer who inspired the nation, future boxers and champions from Soweto, Mdantsane, Thohoyandou and other parts of the country.”

No cause of death was announced. The Sowetan newspaper reported that Thobela was found dead in his apartment in Johannesburg.