Elijah or ‘Tap Tap’ as he was popularly known by his boxing supporters was born in Eshowe. Coming from humble beginnings with little formal education. He started working at a very early age to contribute to the well-being of his family. He took up boxing when there were few alternative opportunities for sport and recreation for Black people.
Makhathini’s tactics and speed in the ring made him a popular participant at amateur boxing matches. Makhathini joined professional ranks at an advanced aged of 29 under the guidance of Chin Govender, who became his lifelong manager and trainer.
In his first professional fight in 1971 he beat Phuthuma Kuboni in the first round. In the very same year he beat many others including Abram Sibeko, Wilfred Dlamini, Maxwell Malinga, John Fighter to mention a few. In 1972, he won the Natal middleweight title when he outpointed Joseph Sishi. He beat former SA middleweight champion Gordon Goba and added a seventh round knock-out win over national middleweight champion Sydney Hoho in a non-title fight. His success continued as he beat former world welterweight champion Curtis Cokes on points.
‘Tap Tap’ was unbeaten in 1978 with wins over Kies, Maxwell Malinga, Moledi, Howard Mills (England), Bonifacio Avila (Columbia) and American Tommy Howard. He retired from professional boxing in 1980, still the reigning South African champion in the Super Middleweight division with a record of 46 wins, 13 losses, 1 draw and 21 wins inside the distance.