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Fuzile falters in pursuit of IBF belt

Ndulani retains IBO mini flyweight title

Kenichi Ogawa punches Azinga Fuzile during their championship bout for the vacant IBF junior lightweight title at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Kenichi Ogawa punches Azinga Fuzile during their championship bout for the vacant IBF junior lightweight title at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Image: Al Bello

It was one of those bittersweet weekends for the fight fraternity in SA.

It all began on Friday night with WBF African featherweight champion Thembani Mbangatha getting knocked out in round nine by Commonwealth champion Nathaniel Collins in the UK.

The final nail in the coffin was when the country’s rising star Azinga “Golden Boy” Fuzile fell short in his pursuit to become a world champion and claim the IBF belt, which is one of top four most respected sanctioning bodies. Others are the WBC, WBA and WBO.

There is currently no IBF champion in SA. The last was Moruti Mthalane, who lost the flyweight strap in April to Sunny Edwards. That was Mthalane’s fourth defence. SA has only two IBO champions – Gideon Buthelezi and Ayanda Ndulani.

Fuzile – the slick left hander from Duncan Village – tried his best, which was unfortunately not enough to slow down the human locomotive trainer Kenichi Ogawa, who was deservedly crowned by all three judges as  winner. Two judges scored the fight 115-110 while the third scored it 114-111, which is the same margin.

The newly crowned champion was aggressive in the early rounds and he dropped Fuzile in round five. Fuzile got himself together and had good moments as he showed brilliant boxing abilities, especially in the 10th round where he applied some pressure, forcing Ogawa to take a slight breath. Ogawa, 35, then let loose his right hand,  which put Fuzile down twice in the 12th and last round – it was all over.

Back home, rising Covid-19 positive cases forced the cancellation of TLB Promotions’ tournament, which was to take place in Midrand yesterday. Athenkosi Dumezweni and Lindile Tshemese were to fight for the SA bantamweight vacant title while long forgotten former IBO welterweight holder Tsiko Mulovhedzi was to make a comeback against Onke Duku.

On a positive note, Ayanda Ndulani worked tirelessly to eventually retain the IBO mini flyweight via a split points decision against Sphamandla Baleni at East London’s ICC Hall,  where promoter Linda Saliwa staged what was his second tournament.

Two judges voted for Ndulani as being the champion with the scores of 117-116-112 while their colleague scored 118-114 for Baleni  – the current SA junior flyweight champion – who came down to the mini flyweight to challenge Ndulani.

Ndulani struggled to keep the pocket-sized Baleni on the outside. Baleni’s strategy was proper – apply pressure relentlessly and force to fight in the pocket – reminiscent of legendary pint-sized Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala during his heydays.

It was not an impressive boxing match but instead a boxing fight where the two fighters were guilty of holding and pushing, with veteran referee Allan Matakane working overtime to separate the two fighters. The tournament was televised live on SuperSport.

Baleni must now begin negotiations with the camp of Mpumelelo Tshabalala for a rematch following a ruling by Boxing SA that they must meet again after the review committee ruled in favour of Tshabalala who was declared the loser by two judges in their first fight in October. Baleni retained the SA junior flyweight title.

In another bout from Saliwa’s tournament, Aphiwe Mboyiya overwhelmed Bongani Mbiko with ring generalship before stopping him in the fourth round.

Veteran boxer Tello Dithebe was stopped in round two by six-fight novice Vladimir Nikitin in Russia on Friday night.

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