By Sharen Thumboo
“If I had to live my life all over again I won’t change a thing”.
These words from the late great Seaman Chetty are testimony to a life without regret. Durban born Chetty is regarded as one of the greatest black boxers of the world. Chetty was among the first black South African boxers to be world rated. Indeed, Ring Magazine rated him sixth in the record of world-class boxers.
At the tender age of 14, after the death of his father Chetty faced the formidable task of taking over the family’s fish and chips business. It was only at the age of 17, with encouragement from his uncle, Seaman Dorasamy that Chetty began his remarkable boxing career. His uncle – a seine netter with a deep love for the ocean, gave him the atypical name of Seaman. Boxing promoter Billy Padarath signed him up immediately after witnessing Chetty’s remarkable victory in the early 1900’s when the local boxer beat four opponents in one night.
Chetty also captured the South African flyweight and bantamweight titles under the professional supervision of Bill Latham, who trained the South African boxing team for the Empire Games in Sydney.
Chetty then traveled to London where he beat two world-rated boxers, eighth-rated Dave Keller and sixth-rated Pierce Ellis. His second trip to the United Kingdom was interrupted by Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
Chetty, by now an outstanding boxer and businessman, later joined the South African Navy, becoming the first Indian to use a weapon in the army. Later he was given the opportunity to become a sergeant–major. His duties took him to war torn countries in the Middle East and East Africa.
Tragedy struck when his wife died while he was still on Naval duty. After leaving the navy Chetty became a boxing instructor, training some of South Africa’s finest black boxers. But he eventually began devoting more time to his prosperous bus company and successful fish market.
None of Chetty’s children followed in his footsteps yet he left behind a boxing legacy and a reminder to posterity that nothing is impossible.
References: Sunday Times Online; 2001