Bright prospect Mbenge shielded by trainer

Thulani Mbenge, left won't be rushed into big fights according to his trainer, despite the opportunity to challenge for the SA title. Photo: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images
Thulani Mbenge, left won't be rushed into big fights according to his trainer, despite the opportunity to challenge for the SA title. Photo: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images

Trainer Sean Smith says it is important to first develop the fighting skills of hot boxing prospect Thulani "Tulz" Mbenge before they can challenge reigning SA welterweight champion Shaun Ness.

Smith was responding to a question about Mbenge's outlook towards the SA title.

"There is no rush for Thulani to challenge Shaun. Let us get more rounds for Thulani; develop him and see how he grows. Let us nurture the talent," said Smith, who has guided the smiling assassin from Mdantsane to eight knockouts in eight wins.

The recently crowned ABU holder is rated No 3 locally. Contender No 1 Ali Funeka does not qualify to face Ness. Funeka is serving suspension following his sixth-round knockout loss to Australia novice Jeff Horn in December.

The assumption is that Chris van Heerden, ranked No 2, based in California, USA, and thus will not be challenging for the SA title.

Expectations were that Mbenge would exploit the situation and challenge Ness.

But Golden Gloves fight publicist Brian Mitchell announced this week that Mbenge would face Ntuthuko Memela at Emperors Palace on February 4 in one of the bouts of promoter Rodney Berman's "Thunder and Lightning" bill.

Smith described Memela as a credible opponent who would bring out the best of Mbenge. "He drew with Shaun and beat Phillip. Ntuthuko is not only good but also awkward. He gave then SA champ Tsiko Mulovhedzi nightmares.

"Look at fight records of many guys including Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Junior in their first 10 to 15 fights, they fought easy opponents because there were being brought up slowly.

"There is no need to rush a boxer, especially if you see a future in them. Tulz only turned professional in 2015 and has boxed only 12 rounds. We will get there, slowly."

Memela upset the bookies early last year by stopping Phillip Ndou but Memela was in turn defeated by Malawian Chimwemwe Chiochta in Thohoyandou in July. Memela is yet to earn a rating.

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