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IBF elimination bout offers Golden Boy shot at redemption

We dug up the old Fuzile for fight against Ward, warns Chief

Azinga Fuzile dominated Shavkat Rakhimov as he built a healthy lead until he was floored twice in the eighth round of their IBF elimination clash at the Orient Theatre.
Azinga Fuzile dominated Shavkat Rakhimov as he built a healthy lead until he was floored twice in the eighth round of their IBF elimination clash at the Orient Theatre.
Image: ALAN EASON / Daily Dispatch

Expect to see the Azinga “Golden Boy” Fuzile that you all know when he takes on Martin Ward in an IBF junior-lightweight elimination fight at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas next month – warns the boxer’s trainer Mzamo “Chief” Njekanye.

Njekanye has just rekindled his relationship with the boxer whose career had a hiccup when he lost to Russian Shav Rakhimov on September 29 2019 for the right to challenge IBF junior-lightweight holder Joseph Diaz.

Rakhimov went on to face Diaz. That fight was a draw and the American retained his belt by virtue of being the champion. Diaz later moved up a weight division and vacated the belt. The winner between Fuzile and Ward will in be a favourable position to be approved for the vacant title.

After a period of introspection, Fuzile – who tasted defeat after 14 straight wins – decided to rejoin Njekanye back home in Duncan Village, near East London. The left-hander had been with Colin Nathan in Gauteng.

Next month's fight will be their first since the reunion. Njekanye – who started honing Fuzile’s skills in the amateur ranks – raised concerns when the fight was discussed in February, feeling that he needed more time to work with the boxer.

He was hoping that Fuzile would be given a warm-up fight before going straight into the elimination fight but Nathan was trying to broker a deal. Nathan announced last week that Ward's promoter Eddie Hearn eventually put pen to paper and the elimination fight will deputise for the WBC lightweight fight between Devin Haney and Jorge Linares.

“Expect to see the Fuzile you know,” warned Njekanye yesterday. ‘We’ve had a wonderful time together and we still are continuing with our hard training but I am telling you right now that we are ready.

“You know, some people misunderstood me when I raised concerns about Azinga going straight into the eliminator. But it dawned on me that such opportunities come once in a boxer’s life and it is coming for the second time to him. So we can’t let it slip. We are going out there to make a statement to the international world that what happened against Rakhimov was just a slip up, we are back and actually we belong up there among the best. The Azinga Fuzile of recent times has been buried and we went back and dug up the old one. This is where he was discovered.”

The soft-spoken former SA featherweight champion said: “This is the man who knows me and which buttons to press to get me going. I am hungrier than before. This is a do-or-die for me. This fight will decide my career. I saw Martin on YouTube. He’s a smart boxer with good speed and reflexes. He’s not a big puncher. But that does not scare me at all.”

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