Boxing: East London’s favourite son to defend world title

2012-03-15 10:03

World title boxing will return to East London when its favourite son, Nkosinathi “Mabhere” Joyi, finally defends his International Boxing Federation (IBF) straw weight strap against Japanese boxer Katsunari Takayama later this month.

It will be the second meeting between Joyi, currently rated world number one in his division by acclaimed The Ring Magazine, and Takayama, the IBF’s top contender.

This much anticipated fight, dubbed “Homecoming”, will take place at the Mecca of boxing’s hallowed arena, the Orient Theatre, on Friday, March 30 it was announced at a press briefing yesterday.

The champ, who has not been in the ring for the past 13 months, was ecstatic, saying: “It feels great to know I’ll be in the ring again and obviously previous delays have distracted my plans for my career, but what mattered most to me was not to let this title go so soon after winning it. I understand the challenges because in South Africa we’re not as active as in the United States.”

Host, and fight promoter, Branco Milenkovic of Branco Sports Productions, representatives from various Eastern Cape government departments, as well as Joyi’s camp all gathered at East London’s Hemingway’s Casino to make the announcement.

Previously apparent problems, which Joyi’s management and Milenkovic refused to speak about, saw the champ miss numerous IBF deadlines to defend last year, prompting Takayama’s camp to complain to the world sanctioning body.

Milenkovic revealed the IBF made five extensions – a world first – to accommodate complications which included a row between the Serb and a group of Eastern Cape promoters late last year.

The promoters took issue with the Eastern Cape government giving millions to Milenkovic to stage international boxing tournaments, and again scuppered chances for a Joyi fight last year.

At the conference Milenkovic said he did not want to dwell on the past, choosing rather to sing government’s praises. Bringing the fight to the province, despite previous challenges, was in the interest of the champion and no one else, he said.

“I’m not one who makes emotional decisions and everyone knows there’s an advantage for Joyi when the fight is in East London. This is not about me, and it’s not about the Eastern Cape government departments ... It’s about Joyi getting a chance to defend his title at home.

“We’re very happy that we managed to finally put the fight together, and now is the time to look forward and not back at the problems,” he said.

Though the last fight between the two was called off early due to a cut to Takayama’s head, it had been clear Joyi would cruise to a comfortable win. But Joyi is not resting on his laurels.

“Things will be different now because he knows a little about me. After the last fight he did say I hit hard so I expect he will be prepared for this and I’ll probably have to chase him around the ring, but I’m ready for that as well,” he said.

Fight fans were urged to quickly secure the limited 1 000 tickets for the fight, which went on sale at Computicket at R50 this week.

Milenkovic said Orient was chosen because of a dearth of suitable venues, and most importantly affordable space for the tournament, which, he says, will cost in the region of R2 million to stage.

“We know the Orient will be too small and East London needs a bigger venue. There were other options such as using the stadium, but because of the short time we had to put this together, I didn’t want to take a chance and get disappointed at the last minute,” he said.

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