Ama­teurs keen to get to Rio

As the Cameroon qual­i­fiers draw closer, this box­ing trio is go­ing all out to en­sure it rep­re­sents SA at the Olympics

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­press.co.za

Three am­a­teurs – Ayabonga Son­jica, Akani Phuzi and Sibu­siso Bandla – are con­fi­dent of win­ning medals at the Olympic Games, set to take place in Rio de Janeiro from Au­gust 5 to 21. The trio will form the core of the sixmem­ber team be­ing pre­pared for the show­down by the SA Na­tional Box­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tion (San­abo).

But their real test will come when they take part in the Olympic qual­i­fiers in Yaoundé, Cameroon, from March 9 to 20, which will hope­fully pave their way to Rio.

The team will rep­re­sent the coun­try in the Zone 4 Cham­pi­onships in Mozam­bique from next Sun­day (Jan­uary 24 to 30). Last year’s event was set to take place in Pre­to­ria, but was can­celled fol­low­ing the out­break of xeno­pho­bic at­tacks in the coun­try.

The three fight­ers feel op­ti­mistic about do­ing the coun­try proud in what they re­fer to as their “tough pa­tri­otic call”.

Son­jica, who fights in the ban­tamweight class, was part of the 2012 Lon­don Olympic team. He was elim­i­nated in the pre­lim­i­nary rounds.

The 24-year-old pugilist, who hails from Dun­can Vil­lage in the Eastern Cape, said he would put on a bet­ter show in Yaoundé.

“I have been train­ing hard and am fo­cused on win­ning a gold medal,” said Son­jica, adding that he knew the com­pe­ti­tion would be tough in Cameroon.

Phuzi (21), a light heavy­weight slug­ger from Mala­mulele in Lim­popo, said ev­ery­thing had been go­ing well for him at the gym.

“I am in great shape and dream­ing of one thing – win­ning a medal.

“Qual­i­fy­ing in Cameroon is a given be­cause I am fit. I am de­ter­mined to win all my fights and be in the Rio squad,” he said.

Bandla (22), a light fly­weight boxer from East Lon­don in the Eastern Cape, said get­ting any medal in Rio would be an achieve­ment.

He took home a bronze from the All-Africa Games in Congo-Braz­zav­ille last year.

“My work­outs have in­ten­si­fied, and this is ev­i­dent dur­ing train­ing. I will be on the Rio-bound plane – bring it on,” he said.

PHOTO: CON­RAD BORN­MAN / FOTO24

HARD HIT­TER Ayabonga Son­jica gets into his train­ing reg­i­men

DE­TER­MINED

Akani Phuzi

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