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Boxing back at big arena

By Bongani Magasela | 2013-03-05 07:44:47.0

BIG-TIME boxing returns to Carnival City's Big Top Arena on March 23.

It is more than a year since boxing took place at the casino in Ekurhuleni. Branco Sports Production, who were the last body to stage a big tournament there, returns with the "African Glory 3" by promoter Branco Milenkovic.

Milenkovic said former IBF junior featherweight champions, Takalani "The Panther" Ndlovu and Jeffrey "The Mongoose" Mathebula will top the bill when they clash in an official IBF junior featherweight title eliminator.

The winner will earn the right to challenge unbeaten reigning champ Jonathan Romero of Colombia.

Romero beat American-based Mexican fighter, Alejandro Lopez, for the then vacant title last month.

Ndlovu and Mathebula have already met twice before.

Ndlovu won the first clash with a split-decision in September 2010 and earned the right to challenge then IBF champion, Canadian Steve Molitor. He then dethroned the Canadian in March 2011.

Ndlovu made a successful defence against Mexican Giovanni Caro in October, but suffered a split-decision defeat to Mathebula in their rematch last year.

Mathebula then lost the title to WBO holder Nonito Donaire in a unification bout that was televised live by HBO in America in July.

"Because of the spirited performance he displayed against Donaire, Mathebula's international stock rose significantly, especially as Donaire has knocked out all his opponents after the Mathebula fight.

"They include Japanese Toshiaki Nishioka as well as Mexican legend Jorge Arce," said Milenkovic yesterday.

Meanwhile Ndlovu, who at 35 is in the twilight of his career, was unlucky in his IBF title eliminator against Lopez last August, but he got the nod from the IBF to engage in another title eliminator.

Mathebula is rated No 4, a spot above Ndlovu.

Milenkovic's good relationship with the IBF has seen him stage a lot of the organisation's clashes.

These include top fights between Mzonke Fana and Cassius Baloyi; Fana against Malcolm Klassen; Klassen versus Baloyi; Nkosinathi Joyi against Raul Garcia and Joyi versus Katsunari Takayama. Milenkovic said the third fight between Mathebula and Ndlovu will deliver the same action as their previous bouts.

"We all know that these two don't come to play, so people can expect an action-packed fight," Milenkovic said.

The winner will earn the right to challenge reigning and unbeaten Colombian Romero.

Mathebula, 33, will be fighting for the first time since recovering from a broken jaw he suffered in the Donaire fight.

Ndlovu, whose skills are honed by Gert Strydom, has 33 wins (18 KOs) against eight losses while the Nick Durandt-trained Mathebula's record reads 26 wins (14 KOs), four defeats and two draws.