Things are look­ing up for SA boxing

CityPress - - Sport - S’BUSISO MSELEKU sm­se­leku@city­press.co.za “Num­bers don’t lie!”

This is a procla­ma­tion from Boxing SA (BSA) chief ex­ec­u­tive Tsholofelo Le­jaka to those who say boxing in this coun­try is dead. Le­jaka, who as­sumed the post in May 2016, says that, de­spite the ir­reg­u­lar live broad­cast­ing of what was once a thriv­ing sport in the coun­try, the num­ber of world cham­pi­ons tell a good story about the sport of glad­i­a­tors.

“We cur­rently have 11 world cham­pi­ons when you com­bine both male and fe­male box­ers,” said Le­jaka, who this week vis­ited Moruti “Baby­face” Mtha­lane at the Hot Box Gym in Jo­han­nes­burg.

Trained by the pol­ished Colin Nathan, Mtha­lane is pre­par­ing for an In­ter­na­tional Boxing Fed­er­a­tion (IBF) fly­weight world ti­tle fight next Sun­day, where he will chal­lenge Pak­istani Muham­mad Wassen for the va­cant ti­tle.

The fight is the main sup­port­ing bout for the World Boxing As­so­ci­a­tion wel­ter­weight ti­tle scrap be­tween Ar­gen­tine cham­pion Lu­cas Martin Matthysse and the pop­u­lar Manny Pac­quiao.

Matthysse has held this ti­tle since Jan­uary. He pre­vi­ously held the World Boxing Coun­cil in­terim su­per light­weight ti­tle be­tween 2012 and 2013. He has an im­pres­sive record of 39 wins (36 by knock­out) and only four losses.

Mtha­lane is the reign­ing IBF fly­weight cham­pion and is in good com­pany with other South Africans, in­clud­ing Kevin Ler­ena, Zolani Tete and Sim­phiwe Khonco, who each hold world ti­tles.

The three have each de­fended their di­adems twice.

“If Moruti wins his up­com­ing fight, we will stand on 12 world ti­tles. That’s not bad at all, and it’s been a while since South Africa had so many world cham­pi­ons at the same time,” Le­jaka said.

“Khonco will be putting his In­ter­na­tional Boxing Or­gan­i­sa­tion [IBO] mini fly­weight crown in line against Toto Lan­dero in Mthatha on July 22.

“An­other up for boxing was when Tete spec­tac­u­larly de­fended his World Boxing Or­gan­i­sa­tion ban­tamweight ti­tle, in the process rewrit­ing his­tory by record­ing the fastest world ti­tle knock­out when he dropped Siboniso Gonya in 11 sec­onds.”

Le­jaka said that, among the lo­cal reign­ing world cham­pi­ons, Gideon Buthelezi had suc­cess­fully de­fended his IBO su­per fly­weight ti­tle an im­pres­sive four times since win­ning it in De­cem­ber 2015. Two-time BSA fe­male boxer of the year Bukiwe Non­ina has al­ready de­fended her world ti­tle twice.

“As they say, num­bers don’t lie! When Moruti fi­nally emerges tri­umphant on Sun­day in Kuala Lumpur, we will con­tinue to as­sert our pres­ence in the high ech­e­lons of world boxing rank­ings. Most im­por­tantly, this will be the fourth belt in the deep sea of four ma­jor world bod­ies. It will also be a sec­ond IBF ti­tle belt that will be in this coun­try.”

We cer­tainly hope Le­jaka’s pre­dic­tions come true.

PHOTO: TE­BOGO LET­SIE

BEST WISHES Boxing SA chief ex­ec­u­tive Tsholofelo Le­jaka (left) vis­ited Moruti Mtha­lane at the Hot Box Gym to wish him luck in his up­com­ing fight

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