Boxing

Fuzile lines up Ogawa in date with destiny

26 November 2021 - 11:28
Azinga Fuzile.
Azinga Fuzile.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Azinga Fuzile takes on Kenichi Ogawa for the vacant IBF junior-lightweight crown at Madison Square Garden in New York on Sunday morning (SA time), but actually this is his date with destiny.

The Golden Boy, as the left-handed boxer from Duncan Village in East London is called, has long been dubbed the most talented boxer in SA.

He won the national lightweight crown in his fifth professional bout at the age of 20 in 2016 and he’s lived up to his billing in every fight except the world title eliminator against Russian Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov in 2019. Even there he was comfortably ahead on points when he got tagged and stopped in the eighth round.

Against Ogawa Fuzile gets the chance to prove he is as good as the hype around him and that he’s put the defeat behind him.

Like Rakhimov, 33-year-old Ogawa is a pressure fighter who doesn’t seem to know how to take a step backwards. He’s easy to hit but his chin also contains a few shock absorbers.

On paper, the Japanese veteran is handmade for Fuzile, but reality doesn’t always stick to the script.

Failure seems unimaginable because it would set Fuzile back badly.

Victory will provide a launching pad to potentially even greater milestones down the road.

A win this weekend will ensure that SA once again has a mainstream world champion after Moruti Mthalane lost his IBF flyweight strap in May.

Triumph would also make Fuzile the fifth South African to win the IBF 58.97kg belt after Brian Mitchell, Cassius Baloyi, Malcolm Klassen and Mzonke Fana.

That would equal the IBF junior-featherweight mantle as SA’s most popular world title, held by Welcome Ncita, Vuyani Bungu, Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, Takalani Ndlovu and Jeffrey Mathebula.

For all that Eastern Cape fans like to think of their locale as the Mecca of SA boxing, they’ve produced only two of those nine champions — Ncita and Bungu.

Johannesburg has four, courtesy of Mitchell, Ledwaba, Klassen and Ndlovu, although Limpopo-born Baloyi and Mathebula spent their professional careers in the City of Gold.

Fana, who was born in Qumbu, relocated to Cape Town as a youngster.

The last time the Eastern Cape sat as the cornerstone of SA boxing was in the 1990s, when Ncita, Bungu, Mbulelo Botile and Zolani Petelo reigned supreme.

A Fuzile triumph will give a boost to East London boxing which, although producing the likes of Zolani Tete, Simphiwe Vetyeka and Nkosinathi Joyi in the past decade, hasn’t delivered the same longevity produced by Mthalane and Hekkie Budler.

If 25-year-old Fuzile lifts the title, consistency will become his next challenge. SA boxers have yet to win a bout unifying mainstream world titles.

Mitchell was arguably robbed against Tony Lopez when their unification for the WBA and IBF belts in 1991 was declared a draw, but that’s the closest anyone has come.

Three decades later and the country still waits. A victorious Fuzile, if he can notch up some successful defences, could be the man to rewrite that history.

The stars in the night sky are his to reach and pluck, but first Fuzile must get past Ogawa.

The bout will be streamed live on DAZN, where subscription costs just under R30 a month.

TimesLIVE


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