South African boxer Siphesihle Mntungwa says the “criticism and insults” he has been subjected to in the wake of his opponent Simiso Buthelezi’’s death after their fight is causing him stress and making him contemplate suicide.
During their bout, Buthelezi, 24, was seen fighting an imaginary opponent in the final minute of the tenth round. That was after Mntungwa fell on the ropes as Buthelezi was trying to land punches. The 24-year-old boxer’s disorientation caused the referee to prematurely end the fight, and Buthelezi was rushed to the hospital where he was placed in an induced coma.
Buthelezi, who suffered a brain injury caused by internal bleeding, passed away days later. But in an interview with Sowetan Live, Mntungwa, 27, said he was being criticized and insulted for Buthelezi’s death, Insider reported.
“I just can’t take it anymore,” Mntungwa said.
“I came under heavy criticism and insults on social media platforms when Simiso was hospitalized; it has taken another level now that he has passed away,” he added. “I just can’t take it anymore. One thing is left for me – I am going to kill myself.”
Mntungwa also claimed that even his neighbors have “posted very ugly messages” about him on social media. “I am no longer safe. I did not kill Simiso; we may have been involved in a boxing fight but it was not a matter of life and death.”
The 27-year-old’s coach, Mmeli Mkhize, said Mntungwa is “under pressure from social media messages.” He added that they “will not even be able to attend the funeral because we are scared.”
The circumstances surrounding Buthelezi’s brain injury are unclear as he did not sustain any serious head blows during the fight. His trainer, Bheki Mngomezulu, also said Buthelezi did not have any health concerns before the fight.
Boxing South Africa announced they will initiate an independent medical review of what transpired. The incident also made headlines in the boxing world as Buthelezi’s symptoms were confusing.
Mntungwa did not really pose a threat during most stages of the fight, ESPN reported. But during the final minute of the 10-round fight, Buthelezi, who was trying to land punches, started shadow boxing after Mntungwa fell on the ropes. The referee quickly ended the fight before medics were called.
“All I wanted was to win the title, which maybe was going to help change my life and that of my family … winning that title was going to help me financially,” Mntungwa told Sowetan Live. “But people have branded me a killer. It could have been me.”