Age vs youth face-off promises a big punch
Hunger, says 36-year-old former world champion Simpiwe "V12" Vetyeka, is not the sole domain of young prospects desperate to prove themselves.
Having been starved of action for a staggering 18 months, the veteran insists he is as motivated as the 23-year-old opponent he faces at Emperors Palace on Saturday night.
Vetyeka takes on Lerato Dlamini in one of two Super Four featherweight semifinals, with Tshifhiwa Munyai, 32, going up against undefeated South African champion Azinga Fuzile, 21, in the other eliminator for the WBC's stepping-stone International title.
Old versus young showdowns have produced compelling bouts over the years.
Phillip Ndou and Corrie Sanders, early in their careers, were unstoppable against Jackie Gunguluza and Johnny du Plooy.Then again, Vuyani Bungu and Frans Botha had too much for greenhorns Takalani Ndlovu and Flo Simba.
The eventual prize for the Super Four winner in the final in February is a 60% share of a R500000 prize money pot, as well as a WBC ranking and a fight in the US, says top promoter Rodney Berman.
Vetyeka is eager to restart his stalling career, which was at an all-time high nearly four years ago when he held the WBA crown after dethroning Chris John.
"I didn't have a promoter," said the man from Duncan Village, in the Eastern Cape, of his inactivity.
"It's been the hardest time of my career. [To survive] I spend money that I have saved and I have family that has helped me.
"This [fight] is very important. Where else will I get this chance? Nowhere. I need to take it with both hands."East London-based Vetyeka, who linked up with trainer Sean Smith at his Sandton, Johannesburg, gym six weeks ago, has little knowledge of Dlamini.
"I don't know him, but I think he's a tough youngster. He has to prove himself and I have to prove I still have what it takes."
Dlamini is hungry to show he belongs in this scrap. "I think about the fight all the time, I visualise the fight.
"I've watched Vetyeka's fights. This is the toughest fight of my career so far - he has all of my attention and focus."
The former national amateur champion, who first learnt his trade in Welkom where he needed to defend himself against bullies on the street, says he's even imagined scenarios where Vetyeka has the upper hand.
"The thing with Vetyeka is when he puts pressure, he's open. He's very open."
Dlamini has a potent left hook that hasn't simply knocked out opponents, but devastated some of them; Sinethemba Bam was unconscious for some 15 minutes.
"I was very nervous [waiting for him to recover]," he recalled. "After he came back from the hospital I asked him if he was okay, and he said he was.
"I told him: 'I'm sorry, it wasn't my intention to do that to you', and he said: 'No, it's part of the sport'."
Dlamini has also rocked and dented sparring partners with that punch, says trainer Colin Nathan.
It's been a while since South Africans have boasted a great local exponent of the left hook, arguably not since Jan Bergman, who employed that blow to score some dramatic victories, including in his own age-versus-youth contest against Joseph Makaringe.BIG QUESTION
The big question is whether Dlamini can make his left hook count on Saturday.
Vetyeka smiles when this reporter asks him. "He won't catch me [with that]. I've got my right guard. And I see everything."
Vetyeka and Smith believe they are the favourites for the fight, if not the tournament, a sentiment Nathan doesn't disagree with.
"On paper it's a mismatch, but this is boxing," he says. "Anything can happen."
The tournament will be broadcast on SuperSport 5 from 7.30pm.