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18 NOVEMBER 2018


2011 Review Of South African Boxing

Joyi(r) with opponent  Raul Garcia
Joyi(r) with opponent Raul Garcia

By Peter Lerner: Secondsout has spoken to various boxing experts around the world about the year in boxing in their country. In this first part we have taken a look at South Africa. One of boxing’s strongest nations, South Africa finished the year with three world champions and a whole host of fighters knocking on the door of world class.

We spoke to Pete Moscardi, perhaps the outstanding authority on boxing in South Africa, and asked him for his lowdown on the year in South Africa. As well as having covered boxing for various South African newspapers, Moscardi has been the fulltime South African correspondent for Boxing News since the mid-eighties. His interest in boxing started almost exactly 62 years ago when he bought the January 1950 issue of Ring with his pocket money.

Boxer most deserving of a break in 2012: Nkosinathi Joyi, IBF flyweight champion (21-0)

When we did a similar international review a couple of years ago we started with the big question, ‘Who was the fighter of the year?’, and we will do so for the other parts of this series. However, the plight of Joyi is, I feel, so deserving of attention that this article should start with him.

Below Pete Moscardi explain why:

“Joyi is a man who is one of the most brilliant fighters this country has ever produced, certainly the best pound-for-pound in this country at the moment. He’s arguably the best at his weight in the world and he’s sitting fighting once a year. He’s a champion, the IBF champion, and he’s longing for a fight. He trains every day of his life and nothing ever happens, for reasons which are none of his own making and that’s why I say he deserves a break. Here is a guy who is honestly outstanding and he is unable to realise his full potential. He will hopefully fight this year – that is if Katsunari Takayama does not walk away from the 25% of $26,000 purse that is on offer.”

The $26,000 dollar purse bid that Moscardi is referring to is the offer made by Joyi’s promoter, Branco Milenkovic, to stage Joyi’s mandatory defence against the Japanese fighter. This was the only purse bid made.

Fighter of the year: Takalani Ndlovu, IBF super bantamweight champion (33-6)

“Against all odds he fought against Steve Molitor for the world title for the third time. He’d fought Molitor twice in Canada. The first time he was stopped and he put that down to not having the write trainer et cetera. He changed trainers and then the second time he lost again but, although the decision was unanimous, I saw the fight and thought that Takalani just about nicked it. That was in Molitor’s backyard so he wasn’t going to get any favours. Then the third time Molitor came over here and he was really really arrogant and he was convinced that he’d already beaten him twice and that this fight was a complete waste of time. He couldn’t quite understand why the IBF insisted he defend against Takalani for a third time. Takalani said to him at a public pre-fight press conference, “You’ve beaten me twice in your hometown. Now you’ve come to South Africa and you’ll see the difference. This is my country.” And Molitor is so arrogant he said, “I go to people’s backyards and beat them and that’s what I’m going to do here (Molitor had of course come to Britain several times, beating the likes of the mercurial Booth brothers and Michael Hunter).” Takalani went out and won by a wide margin, even the Canadian judge gave it to him by four points and our guys gave it to him by eight. It was an absolutely sweeping victory and Molitor was never in the fight.

“Then he went over to Mexico for a defence against a guy called Giovanni Caro. He was a tough number. He had just lost to another South African, Simpiwe Vetyeka in a WBC final eliminator. That was a tremendous fight and anybody who gives Vetyeka a close fight is a really good fighter. Anyway, Takalani didn’t have a good time, he apparently got treated very badly over there and he came through after a terrific fight. He had to come off the floor after a first round knockdown and came back and beat this guy in Mexico. So that is why I‘ve voted him fighter of the year. I think his achievement was as good as, if not better than, anybody else’s.”

It should be noted that super bantamweight is currently a monstrous division in South Africa. They have about half-a-dozen or so world class fighters who could perhaps give anyone in the world a headache. Apart from Ndlovu there is the aforementioned Vetyeka. He is 23-1 with his only loss being a fairly close decision in Japan four years ago to the then-streaking Hozumi Hasegawa. Hopefully winning that final eliminator will get him a title shot, but with the WBC (or any other of those cowboys) don’t hold your breath. Then there is 25-3-2 Jeffrey Mathebula, who lost a disputed split decision to Celestino Caballero in Panama, and the ‘Scourge of Britain’ Tshifhiwa Munyai, who was very unlucky not to win the WBC Silver belt in Mexico against Christian Esquivel.

Then there is the wildcard, Macbute ‘Macman’ Sinyabi. He is 18-1 (18) with eleven first round stoppages and seven defences of the national title to his name. Moscardi says of him, “He’s not yet been tested against any international opposition but on the home front he’s iced everybody. He’s a terrific puncher but the chin is a bit suspect and he’s still to be tested at top level so he’s certainly a great prospect but the jury’s still out.”

Moscardi picks IBF flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane as a close runner up to Ndlovu in the fighter of the year stakes.

“Obviously second place would have to go to Moruti. He’s a terrific fighter and he went out of the country and defended his title in Italy. I don’t think the opposition was as tough as that which Ndlovu faced but nonetheless he did a great job and came through the year with flying colours.”

I saw Mthalane’s fight in Italy – a seventh round stoppage of Andrea Sarritzu – from ringside and wholeheartedly concur with his high opinion of the little champion. He could well be the best in the division. Earlier in the year he also stopped ex-WBO interim champ Johnriel Casimero.

Fight of the year: Chris van Heerden W12 Boitshepo Mandawe (SA welterweight title), 29th January; Lubabalo Msuthu W12 Dennis Tubieron (WBF bantamweight title), 19th November

For his fights of the year, Moscardi chose two close split decision fights.

“We’ve got some very unheralded fighters in the welterweight division. They’ve never been glamour fighters or popular fighters but they are still extremely good. And Boitshepo Mandawe was one of them. He’d give anybody a hard time and he gave Van Heerden one. Chris had to pull out all the stops to beat him and it was an absolute war from start to finish. The verdict was in doubt right up to the final bell. It could have been anybody’s fight but I think Chris’s aggression probably just sneaked it for him.”

For those of you who haven’t seen either fighter, Moscardi describes their styles:

“Van Heerden has a straight up style, he’s an attacking fighter and he hardly knows anything else other than to go forward and throw bunches of punches. He’s not the cleverest fighter defensively. He’s a southpaw, hits hard and hits often. He’s a buzzsaw who just comes in swarming. Madawe is a general all-rounder. He could punch, he could box and he could hit a bit as well. The first fight (back in 2009) was the same sort of fight. The two guys are the sort of fighters you could put them on together every night of the week and each time they’d produce a potential fight of the year.”

Van Heerden had a great year. Not only did he produce a fight of the year but he also went on to scalp two of the country’s top fighters. First he beat 14-1 Bongani Mwelase, a one-time hot prospect, then he outpointed Kaiser Mabuza, the fighter who was causing Zab Judah all sorts of problems before he got knocked out.

As for Moscardi’s second choice, first he gave us a bit of background on Msuthu.

“Now Lubabalo Msuthu is a very good little fighter. He had not fought for years. I think about two years. Again through various reasons which don’t relate to his ability at all – for example he is managed by a black manager and he was previously promoted by black promoters. All those guys were connected to the national broadcaster, SABC, who two years ago decided to stop televising boxing. Because of the camp he was in the white promoters were not too interested in matching him – which is a huge pity – and resulted in him being out of action for two years. Now the WBF in their wisdom, and I think this is a mistake because it goes against their own rules, decided that it was not his fault that he hadn’t defended his title and they allowed him to keep it. When this new promoter - Showpony Promotions – popped its head up and said it wanted to promote a bantamweight fight, it was the ideal the opportunity to give Msuthu a chance to defend.

“They brought in a Filipino. Now my own opinion on Filipinos is that any fighter out of that country can give anybody a good fight. They’re all as tough as nails, they all come to fight. They don’t necessarily all have the same degree of ability but they’re all good honest, hard fighters. This guy Tubieron had real ability and he came to take the title away. In the second round it looked as though he was going to do that because he floored Msuthu and had him in a lot of trouble. It was absolute action all the way through, absolute non-stop action.”

Look out for the second part of Moscardi’s breakdown of South African action in 2011, including the most impressive imports, those fighters who disappointed and the prospects to look out for. 

January 12, 2012

Editor’s note

This article has been amended. The original article stated that the purse bid for the Joyi-Takayama fight was 26,000 Rand and attributed the information to Pete Moscardi. In reality the purse bid was for 26,000 Dollars - a much higher bid than originally stated - and the mistake was entirely the author’s. Peter Lerner and Secondsout would like to apologise to Branco Milenkovic and Pete Moscardi for this oversight.

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