I won title for Madiba

WORLD BEATERS: New IBF welterweight champion Isaac 'Angel' Hlatshwayo and his trainer Nick Durandt. PIC: Bafana Mahlangu. © Sowetan.
WORLD BEATERS: New IBF welterweight champion Isaac 'Angel' Hlatshwayo and his trainer Nick Durandt. PIC: Bafana Mahlangu. © Sowetan.

THE first words from newly crowned IBF welterweight champion Isaac "Angel" Hlatshwayo on his arrival at OR Tambo International Airport yesterday were: "I hope it was a good birthday for Madiba. I had to do it for Madiba.

THE first words from newly crowned IBF welterweight champion Isaac "Angel" Hlatshwayo on his arrival at OR Tambo International Airport yesterday were: "I hope it was a good birthday for Madiba. I had to do it for Madiba.

"Nelson Mandela, you are my hero, my inspiration. I love you," Hlatshwayo said, pumping his fists into the air.

Hlatshwayo had just landed to a lukewarm response after a rare feat in the US on Sunday morning, when he won the title.

He beat the US's idol Delvin "The Devil" Rodriguez at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

Hlatshwayo's achievement away from home is made more special because local fighters often get raw deals away from home. Hlatshwayo, the ultimate warrior, bullied Delvin in his own kraal. He follows in the footsteps of Thulani "Sugarboy" Malinga, who won the WBC super middleweight strap from Nigel Benn in the UK in 1996, and Cassius Baloyi, who won the IBF junior lightweight belt from Manuel Medina in Washington in 2007.

These gladiators achieved that alongside trainer Nick Durandt, who guided Hlatshwayo to this memorable victory.

They defied the odds here and abroad.

Clad in navy jeans, a white T-shirt and dark glasses, Hlatshwayo, who otherwise did not get the hero's welcome he deserved, said: "I dedicate this victory to uTata Nelson Mandela. This is my small birthday present to him. I promised before I went to America that I would win this title for him.

"The old man did not realise his wish to be a professional boxer because he had to take on a different but more significant fight. He became the undisputed Freedom Fighter. I salute him."

Hlatshwayo's bravery changed the hearts of Americans who booed him as he walked into the ring.

"They were very hostile. But the love shown by South Africans living there kept me going. It was tough.

"Rodriguez hammered, pounded and even shook me badly in the first three rounds. I had to grab him for survival. He closed my eye with a right uppercut in round five," he said, his eye still swollen.

"I thought of giving up but the promise I made to Madiba - and the pride of being a South African - said as a warrior, you soldier on.

"I can simply say I am right there with the Miguel Cottos and Shane Mosleys of this world."

Hlatshwayo said the spit decision was not a true reflection of their fight. A Connecticut judge scored it 115-113 for Rodriguez while Isaac Shabalala (SA) and Tony Paolillo (Italy) scored it 116-113 and 116-112 for Hlatshwayo.

Hlatshwayo and Malcolm Klassen, stablemates at the productive gym of esteemed mentor Nick Durandt, are the only fighters from Branco Sports Production holding IBF belts.

The "Stone" Klassen holds the junior lightweight strap that he won in April after flattening Cassius Baloyi in seven rounds in Mafikeng.

Durandt was livid at the judge from Connecticut.

"He should have remained at home and just faxed his scorecard to the fight supervisor. Indeed it was a tough fight but Rodriguez won the first three rounds only," Durandt said.

He announced that IBO holder Lovemore "Black Panther" Ndou, who is based in Australia, was their immediate target.

"I designed a retirement package for him while on the flight back. It is called Durandt's Insurance Premium.

"I want Lovemore, him and his mouth. He beat my former son, Phillip Ndou."

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