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Johnny van Rensburg

Biographical information

TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJan Christiaan Johannes "Johnny"•van Rensburg
Used nameJohnny•van Rensburg
Born9 May 1932 in Lichtenburg (RSA)
Died28 October 2010 in Roodepoort (RSA)
NOC South Africa


Johnny van Rensburg, known as Smiler for his cheerful disposition in the ring, won four successive South African amateur titles between 1949 and 1952. A unique part of this achievement was that none of the championships were won in the same category as he moved from bantamweight all the way up to light-welterweight during his amateur career. He only lost three of his 140 amateur bouts but it was a major disappointment for him that the third and final loss of his career came in his opening fight at the 1952 Olympic Games.

Van Rensburg made a successful transition to the world of professional boxing and in January 1954, less than a year after his debut, he became South African lightweight champion. The next year he divested Joe Lucy of the British Empire lightweight title, made three successful defences of the championship and appeared to be the verge of a world title fight when a poor run of form would proved costly to his career. He lost his titles to compatriot Willie Toweel and suffered a pair of defeats to journeymen fighters over 1956-57 but then rebounded in the welterweight division by again winning South African and British Empire championships. As the decade ended he travelled overseas and fought regularly in both Australia and Europe compiling a record of 32 wins, 13 defeats and 3 draws in his 48 fight career until his retirement in 1960. By career he was a Traffic and Licence Inspector.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1952 Summer Olympics Boxing RSA Johnny van Rensburg
Lightweight, Men (Olympic) =17

Special Notes