Friends share their thoughts regarding the loss of Lucky

It seems the entire fight  team was on hand for this photo. Lucky Nhlengethwa is on the top row second from the right. Photo: Jim Wyatt

After an in-house smoker, many from The Arena MMA fight team were on hand for this photo. (top, second from the right) Head Boxing Coach Lucky-Phineas Nhlengethwa is shown holding up one of the team’s many championships belts. Photo: Jim Wyatt

The Arena MMA: “It is with extreme regret and heavy, heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved Boxing Coach and absolutely tremendous human being, Lucky-Phineas Nhlengethwa. He was just 43 years of age when he unexpectedly passed away in his home, far, far too soon due to an Asthma related issue leaving behind his lovely wife Annie Mae Craft.

At present there is a memorial fund is to help Annie fulfill Lucky’s wish for his ashes to be returned to South Africa, as well as other memorial expenses and arrangements. Please share a collective prayer with us and Annie. She told us she knows he is looking down from Heaven already, with that warm, giant smile he always wore.”


Dear Friends of Lucky,

Here’s the info regarding Lucky’s Memorial Services. There will be 2 services, both Celebrations of Life. The 1st service is this Saturday 9/20 10 AM at the New Paradise Baptist Church, at 420 68th Street 92114. The service will be conducted by Lucky’s friend, the Reverend James Moore Jr. Attire is Business Casual or Casual.

The 2nd service will be conducted the following Saturday 9/27 at 1 PM at The Arena MMA, at 3350 Sports Arena Blvd. 92110 Attire is casual and we will have a Free BBQ. This event is for everyone, not just Arena members. Also, if you were a close friend of Lucky’s who worked or trained with him during his Boxing and Coaching careers, please contact us if you’re interested in sharing any stories, photos or videos at The Arena Memorial event

We look forward to seeing you at one or both of the Celebrations. This is no longer a time for sadness.

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The URL which can get you to the website is

(photo left) Lucky leaves behind his lovely wife Annie Mae Craft, shown here with her adoring husband. (top, right) Lucky joins fellow coach Ernesto Martinez in a photo saluting the exploits of standout

(photo left) Lucky leaves behind his lovely wife Annie Mae Craft shown here with her adoring husband. (bottom, right) Lucky is joined by fellow coach Ernesto Martinez (r) saluting the exploits of Paulo Angelo Bihis (c).

Boxing & Fitness trainer Phineas “Lucky” Nhlengethwa grew up in South Africa, where as am Amateur he won several South African Amateur Boxing titles and had a record of 48 wins and only 13 losses.

While a fierce competitor in the ring, Lucky’s extremely friendly nature made him one of South Africa’s most likable and popular boxers outside the ring. After his successful Amateur career, he turned professional. His friendship with American boxers who toured his country led to him ultimately moving to the U.S. and making San Diego his home.

After boxing professionally in the U.S. for four years, and working as a sparring partner for some of the top guns in the sport, Lucky retired from competition to concentrate on training others.

Lucky has worked with a great number of champions to include Jesus Salud, Paul Vaden, Obar Carr, Corrie Sanders, Larry Dixon, Tiger Smalls and Yori Boy Compas. He trained MMA fighters as well, offering his students both positive and skilled instruction.

Scott Fishbach: “Lucky was one of the happiest, friendliest and nicest people I ever met. So sad to hear this. RIP Champ.

Chris Cope: “The true definition of being an amazing person. If we were to take some core teaching from coach Lucky, it would be to be kind/nice to everyone, always smile and to just love life. Coach Lucky thank you so much for all that you did and for always bringing smiles to our faces with your smile. You brought so much happiness to all the gyms where you coached and you were one of a kind. Your spirit will live on through all of us and you have taught all of us to be better people.”

Halloween 2011: (l to r) Alan “the Corporate Ladder” Calero, Alicia “Chewy” Ciuffo, Lucky, Marie Fukumoto Fowle.

Halloween 2011: (l to r) Alan “the Corporate Ladder” Calero, Alicia “Chewy” Ciuffo, Lucky-Phineas Nhlengethwa and Marie Fukumoto Fowle.

Lucky Nhlengethwa (l) poses for a photo with one of his many students, Pizzaro.

Lucky (l) poses for a photo with one of his top performers Gabriel Pizzaro.

Gabriel Pizarro:As I sit here at the park all alone tripping out on how short life really is…I can’t help think about all the good times coach Lucky-Phineas Nhlengethwa has brought to myself along with plenty of others! I will never forget him…it’s not in my blood vanes! “Speed is Power” says Lucky at boxing practice! I still can’t believe you are gone. I just saw you last week, but I’m so glad I was able to say good bye to you. I love you Coach! I’m going to miss you very much, but most of all, I will remember you as one of the most hard working people I know!!! Thank you very much for all that you have done for me. Thank you for never giving up on me even when I’d sometimes mess up combos shown by you…it really means a lot to me! I appreciate you my friend, coach, brother and family! I know too you are looking down upon us all with a big smile and no worries! See you soon coach!”

Coach Ed Buckley:To the San Diego Community of Coaches: We all have either worked together, cornered against each other at fights or have socialized together. We are not a corporation full of employees who see each other every day at a job we hate. We are all individuals who follow our passion and love for training whether that be Boxing, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, or even fitness/conditioning classes. We don’t make much money except what we can to just get by and make a living. We are not rich people in the sense of money. But I will say we are truly one big family. I respect each and every one of you for what you do in changing and guiding people in their lives. There is no bigger reward for us than to watch the transformation and success of our students. That in return is our biggest reward.

In time of need and in time of sadness such as today with with the passing of Lucky-Phineas Nhlengethwa, The Arena MMA Boxing Coach. I am watching my news feed fill with the love, respect and kindness all of you are showing for the passing of one of our family member of coaches. Nothing is greater than the admiration, respect, and love for one another. In a field where we all live in our own little gym worlds. We all rarely see each other. But in the end who else will look out for us if we don’t look out and care for each other? Training is a lonely world. As I mentioned earlier we are not monetarily rich, but we are rich in friendship and camaraderie for our like profession. With that I would like say goodbye to someone who has touched all of our lives in a positive way. May Heaven’s Angels get in better shape and learn some new Boxing skills with their new Coach Lucky, R.I.P.

Remember this if nothing else and it comes from the bottom of my heart. I love all of you.”

Carina Salgado: “This is so well said Coach Ed, we all loved Lucky so very much. He was an amazing human being. One of the most incredible men out there. We love him and all you very much.”

Manolo “El Huracan” Hernandez, coach at the San Diego Combat Academy: “Respect Lucky Phineas Nhlengethwa.”

Coach Doug Dickey from the 858 Fight Shop: “I am in total shock and sadness. I trained with Lucky Phineas Nhlengethwa back in the day and he was the nicest guy around. RIP Champ!”

Curtis Demarce: “Amazing coach, inspirational and always brought happiness! RIP Lucky!!”

Tiger Smalls

(photo right) Lucky Phineas Phlengethwa poses for a photo with California Boxing Hall of Fame boxer, now coach Tiger Smalls. (left) Lucky has his photo taken with Dr. Hans, another of the pugilist that Lucky helped train.

Coach Luis Rodriguez: “Bro, I don’t know what to say or do. You have always been the most humble person I know. I’m really hurt, that you are not here my friend. I try and count the most respectful, honest, good hearted people in this world and I could only count them in one hand and you’re one and I mean by #1 my friend. You were always so happy, as if you had just won the lotto. Maybe that’s why you were named Lucky, because your parents brought a child into the world, that grew into a man that we All were lucky to have as a friend and a great boxing coach. Lucky-Phineas Nhlengethwa  you brought light every time you walked into a room. If I had a bad day and saw you, it would all go away because you would say the simplest words that made me feel good…. Brother I will never forget you and I’m sure no one else will either. Bless your family and friends and bless your soul my brother and watch over us that we could all one day be the person you were. I love you my friend and we’ll touch gloves soon.”

Julian Bojorquez: “Amen for the brotherhood we experience only once in a lifetime if we are lucky.”

MMA fighter, Tyler Sidders: “This man taught me the ins and outs of boxing and life. Lucky-Phineas Nhlengethwa, I’ll be missing you.”

Shane Kruchten:I was just informed one of many influential people in my fighting career Lucky-Phineas Nhlengethwa passed away last night at his home at the young age of 43. Thank you coach for always giving me hope and making me smile no matter what was going on or how hard I had just trained. You had so much knowledge and loved to share it with the world. I was able to be a sponge and now know you are looking down and cheering us on!

Other than a coach, you were an amazing, loving husband and great human being. I will never forget all the moments we shared. Thank you for helping me, molding me into the fighter I became. Rest Easy Coach. I look forward to the time I hear “Hey Champ, looking good!” again. Rest Easy Coach.”

Coach Lucky-Pheneas Nhlengethwa poses for a photo with the legendary Mixed Martial Artist Cris Cyborg Santos who sought Lucky's help to improve  on her striking skills.

Coach Lucky poses for a photo with the legendary Mixed Martial Artist Cris “Cyborg” Justino who sought Lucky’s help to improve her striking skills.

Frank Lester: “I’ve never fought boxing before. Tonight I fought a seasoned pro boxer who had 65 amateur fights before he turned pro. I knocked him down in the 2nd rd & he never hurt me once & honestly I didn’t feel a single punch. Coach Lucky-Phineas Nhlengethwa was my first boxing instructor. He taught me a jab, what a feint was, & his loving presence taught me humility. He never wanted anything from anybody other than to make them smile. I love you Lucky. This Fight was for you.”

Jim Wyatt: “I just can’t believe it. Lucky always had a smile on his face and was one of those gentlemen who only saw the good in all of us. I wish I could be more like him – he was such a shining star – an inspiration to all.

His passing is another example of that old saying – “only the good die young.” It usually happens during wartime. It also happens when we are young and impressionable. This was one of the truly good guys. I will never forget his kind words and the time he so freely gave to me and everyone. Like a whimpering child, I just can’t stop mourning his loss. To all of you who feel as I do, no words can express our collective grief.”

Three of his greatest finds - wife Annie (l), boxing legend Archie Moore and tough guy Orlin Norris. “One of the coolest champions I have ever met, former cruiserweight world champion Orlin “The Juice” Norris.” I always dreamt of meeting Archie “the Mongoose” Moore when in South Africa and then I came to the States and met him! That was a dream come true!” “I'm blessed to be married to this woman Annie Craft. We are now approaching our 22nd wedding anniversary in May. I am so very Lucky.”

Three of his greatest finds – wife Annie (left), boxing legend Archie Moore (top right) and tough guy Orlin Norris (bottom, right). “I’m blessed to be married to this woman Annie Craft. We are now approaching our 22nd Wedding Anniversary in May. I am so very lucky. One of the coolest champions I have ever met, is former cruiserweight world champion Orlin “The Juice” Norris. Plus, growing up in South Africa, I always dreamt of meeting Archie “the Mongoose” Moore and then when I came to the States and met him! That was a dream come true!”

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