Matyhila shuts up the naysayers
PHUMZILE "Sweet Chocolate" Matyhila has finally earned the trust and respect of fussy East London boxing fans.
The boxing connoisseurs from that fight-crazy province are hard to please.
Matyhila comes from their neighbourhood in Mdantsane but he could not convince them that he was a viable long-term investment.
He won the WBC International junior flyweight and the South African bantamweight belts.
Matyhila defended against Ntobeko Duma at East London's famous Orient Theatre last year and still the fans remained unconvinced.
Matyhila failed to win their acclaim even after representing South Africa in many international amateur championships, which included the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
It seemed that he was destined to follow in the footsteps of legendary Cuban heavyweight amateur boxer Teofilo Stevenson by not turning professional.
Stevenson, one of only three boxers ever to have won three Olympic gold medals, refused to fight professionally even after American promoters offered him about $5million for a debut bout against Muhammad Ali.
However, Matyhila turned pro at the age of 28 and fought his first professional fight on February 21 2004. His third-round stoppage by novice Lwazi Mzolisa in 2009 ended Matyhila's unbeaten record in 14 fights.
Matyhila drew with journeyman Sipho Nkadimeng, outpointed warrior Nkqubela Gwazela for the national title and laboured against Duma, a hopeless fighter.
Fans at Orient Theatre probably backed him because he is their homeboy. However, they refused to see him as a long-term prospect.
But Matyhila delivered a sermon last weekend. The lanky 35-year-old orthodox boxer clinically stopped highly touted lefty Cleutus "Pacman" Mbele in nine rounds. Promoter Mzimasi Mnguni, who honed Mathyila's skills from the amateur ranks, presented Matyhila's defence at Orient Theatre.
Mnguni was delighted: "He has ended all the doubts we had and I'm proud of him. Gratitude to the fans whose unwavering support encouraged Matyhila. Their presence also made the sponsors, the Eastern Cape Gambling and Betting Board, happy."