Featherweights trigger memories

2011-02-19 19:01

The junior featherweight division always triggers outstanding memories of class, speed and ingenuity in South Africa, and this thought adds to the pressure that Macbute Sinyabi and Thabo Sonjika will be feeling until they meet at the Orient Theatre in East London on March 26.

The two confront each other for Sonjika’s national title in the memorable weight class, the junior featherweight, staged by Mzimasi Mnguni.

Why are the combatants burdened?

Welcome “The Hawk” Ncita, Vuyani “The Beast” Bungu and Lehlohonolo “Hands of Stone” Ledwaba ­unquestionably immortalised the junior featherweight section.

Ncita of Mdantsane spectacularly seized the International Boxing Federation (IBF) title from Israel’s devastating puncher, Fabrice Benichou, in the champion’s backyard on March 3 1990.

Facing a hostile, partisan crowd, Ncita produced an electrifying performance to mute the champion’s vociferous supporters.

The polished South African went on to successfully defend the title six times before handing the baton to stablemate Bungu.

Bungu surpassed his idol, Ncita, unthinkably retaining the crown 13 times, a South African record.

This was after he had dethroned American Kennedy McKinney, then regarded as one of the 10 best fighters in the world, pound for pound, on August 2 1994.

Bungu later handed the cudgels over to the Soweto-born Ledwaba.

The latter snatched the crown from American Michael Johnson on May 29 1999 and went on to retain it five times.

These multiple defences have almost made the IBF crown in the weight division South Africa’s exclusive ­possession.

Ncita, Bungu and Ledwaba, on their way to holding onto the title, had a subtle way of conserving energy and suddenly exploding into decisive action, becoming household names.

These three great men are today overlooked, even ridiculed by cynics, regardless of their accomplishments.

While Bungu overwhelmed foes with a barrage of punches, Ncita and Ledwaba delivered incredible pinpoint punches that could take an opponent’s head off.

The parallels between Ncita and his former sparring partner Bungu are amazing. Both gladiators were groomed by Mnguni, a man who originally hails from Mofolo Village in Soweto.

Mnguni undoubtedly inspired Bungu to follow Ncita’s path.

Sinyabi and Sonjika need to emulate the fire-spitting trinity, and wear their oversized boots. And this thought makes their forthcoming title encounter extraordinary.

The junior featherweight division is as close as a sweetheart to the heart of the country, and Sinyabi and Sonjika should realise that when they are ducking under the ropes to go to war.

The eyes of the South African boxing fraternity will be focused on the national title fight, and woe betide them should Sinyabi and Sonjika flunk.

Ncita, Bungu and Ledwaba rose to meet a challenge, accomplishing something better than their contemporaries, and Sinyabi and Sonjika can do it too – provided do not become boxers who seldom see an opportunity until it has passed.

»?A new Gauteng mini flyweight champion will be born when Loyiso Ngantweni and Shamla Kortman meet for the vacant crown at Saul Tsotetsi Sports Complex in Sebokeng next Sunday.

The nine-bout bill will be staged by Ethembeni Promotions. In the main bout, Nkosinathi Ntshangase faces Seremi Mathole over eight rounds in the junior lightweight division. The rest of the bouts are over four rounds.

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