Adversity makes Mashaba the favourite

Bongani Magasela

Bongani Magasela

Top boxing mentor Eugene Khanyile, who has moulded Thomas Mashaba, an average fighter, into a dual IBO champion, attributed Mashaba's successes to his living in a shack in Khutsong.

"He would not want to go back to the poverty-stricken life," said Khanyile, who revealed that Mashaba now lives comfortably in a six-roomed house in Carletonville.

Mashaba, the former South African and IBO undefeated junior featherweight champion, holds the IBO featherweight belt that he won from Vuyani Bungu in 2005.

Mashaba vacated the junior featherweight belt but kept the featherweight one which will be at stake against Eric Aiken at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park on November 12. Mashaba will bid for a fourth defence.

Khanyile said Mashaba was facing a difficult opponent in Aiken. The American, nicknamed "Mighty Mouse", is a former IBF champion.

But "Merciless" Mashaba, a locomotive train driver at the Driefontein gold mine, has been in wars almost throughout his boxing career.

"Some of his fights have been so difficult that I personally got butterflies in my stomach, but Mashaba refused to lose," said Khanyile .

For the record, Mashaba is yet to lose a fight in a local ring after 19 wins (11 KOs) and four draws. His only loss came in Thailand in 2003 against Sod Looknongyangtoy for the WBO Asia Pacific junior featherweight title.

Khanyile said Mashaba showed his true character in his bloody war with Bonani Hlwatika on December 13 2003.

"He bled badly from a cut in the second round. Hlwatika's constant head butts left Mashaba with a lump on the forehead which made it difficult to for him to see.

"I wanted to throw in the towel but Mashaba warned me to dare. He soldiered on until Hlwatika delivered a deliberate low blow in the 11th round and was disqualified."

Victory against Aiken should open doors wider internationally for Mashaba. Aiken's CV read 16 wins (12 KOs), five losses and a draw.