Tributes pour in for boxing stalwart Eddie Marshall

Edward Eddie Marshall after a tour of his house and show of accolades in Portland. He stepped out of bed to share some of the finest stories in his boxing career, including meeting world champions Muhammad Ali, Baby Jake Matlala, Evander Holyfield and Claressa Shields, to name a few. Picture: Lonwabo Marele

Renowned boxing official, Eddie Marshall, from Portland, has been hailed as an outstanding referee, mentor and friend.

Marshall, 68, died last week after a battle with cancer.

The former Africa head for the World Boxing Federation was born on the same day as his old friend and former world champion, Muhammad Ali, on January 17 – Marshall was born in 1955 and Ali in 1942.

Tributes came pouring in from around the world as those who had been touched by his humble spirit and passion for his sport reflected on his legacy.

To many, he was a giant in boxing – and a pioneer of generations for officials and boxers from Portland, Athlone and neighbouring communities. To his wife, Desiree, Marshall was a gentleman, a provider and a devoted father.

“He was very dedicated to whatever he did. He was involved in so many organisations and (the lives of) our three children. He was sort of a perfectionist. He would set the rules and be stern about them. He was very much involved with street kids, teaching them and mentoring the community,” said Marshall.

Boxing official and old friend, Fredrick van Der Ross said they first met in 1984 when he joined Marshall in the group of officials from the Western Cape.

“We were always together. He was helpful, always there when you needed him. It was very seldom that Eddie missed a tournament,” he said.

Van Der Ross shared a story about how they almost missed a tournament in Johannesburg because the taxi they were in had a flat tire.

“All the provinces got an invitation for the tournament. We had to pay R150 for the trip. On the way, our taxi’s tire punctured and we had to walk for a kilometre to the nearest garage. I still have an image of all of us standing outside.”

Marshall was a gentleman, said Van Der Ross.

Having been acquainted since 1982, under the then SA Boxing Board of Control, WBO Africa supervisor, Leslie Cross said Marshall was his mentor.

“He was already an established referee in 1982. I had to do my two years probation. I started in 1984 with a lot of guidance from Eddie. He was really my mentor. After fights he would say ‘work on this or that’.”

Cross fondly recalled two memorable trips they shared. One was in Johannesburg in 1997. The other took place in George during the Apartheid days.

“We were going to get into trouble that day in George. We stood outside an all-white pub after a tournament. Eddie went in and said we have the minister of sport outside and he wants to come in and have a beer. When they cleared the way I could not believe it… We had a beer,” said Cross.

Elroy Marshall fondly recalled a day when his father made the journey from Cape Town to Mossel Bay and back to pick up a family member who had a job interview the following day.

“He was just this soft person who was always willing to help others. You could call him at any time of the night, irrespective of the time. We had a family member who could not find a taxi from Mossel Bay for a job interview the next day. All we heard was him getting in his car at 2pm saying, ‘tell her I am on my way’. He drove there and back… She got the job,” said Elroy.

Promoter Jack Brice said the Marshalls have been very close to them for more than eight decades following a friendship that was started by their fathers.

“I fought against Eddie when he was a senior of 19 and I was 16. I knocked him out at the Maitland Townhall, around about 1976/1977. But we have always been friends. He was one of the leading referees of the world before he fell sick. He loved the sport of boxing. He was a very, very good referee, a world leading referee. He was the WBF Africa head, him and Howard Goldberg. Eddie was a great, humble man, we are going to miss him,” said Brice.

Boxing official Sipho Ndongeni said in the 1990s, when he was still an active boxer, he used to watch Marshall, Cross, Van Der Ross and later Deon Duarte officiate before he became a referee too.

“They worked with each other for more than 20 years. I have worked with Eddie for more than 10 years, we also travelled twice internationally. He was a gentleman. Eddie and the late Mickey Klaas helped me when I started out. He loved the sport very much,” said Ndongeni.

Marshall’s memorial service will be held on Wednesday January 17, at Christ the Mediator Anglican Church, Wall Street, in Portland, at 7pm. The funeral service will be held on Saturday January 20, at the same venue, at 7.30am.

Marlin and Elroy with their father, Eddie Marshall, all smiles after a training in Portland. Picture: Lonwabo Marele
Eddie Marshall and son, Marlin, at their home gym in Portland. Picture: Lonwabo Marele
Eddie Marshall, left, and Fredrick Van Der Ross. Pictured: Supplied.