Mathebula seeks elusive title

Jeffrey Mathebula (Gallo Images)
Jeffrey Mathebula (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - In a continuation of the super bantamweight title merry-go-round, Jeffrey Mathebula has been handed a chance to regain the IBF title against Spain's Kiko Martinez at the Pabellon Esperanza in Elche, Spain, on Saturday night.

Simultaneously, at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, a second South African, Vusi Malinga, will face England's Stuart Hall in a bid to gain the IBF bantamweight title he has been chasing for the best part of four years.

Martinez annexed the IBF super bantamweight title in August with a shock sixth-round knockout victory over Jhonatan Romero after acclaimed Filipino and WBO champion Nonito Donaire had relinquished the IBF title he had won in a unification bout with Mathebula.

The South African put up a courageous, but back-to-the-wall performance against a fighter who was ranked among the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world by Ring Magazine, while having his jaw broken halfway through the 12-round bout.

Donaire then gave up the IBF title in order to make a bid to add the WBA title to his WBO crown in another publicised unification fight, but ended up without a title of any sort when he was outpointed by legendary Cuban-born Guillermo Rigondeaux.

After a lengthy lay-off recovering from his broken jaw, the 34 year-old Mathebula repeated an earlier convincing win over Takalani Ndlovu, from whom he had annexed the IBF title in the first place.

The repeat win over Ndlovu earned Mathebula a crack at Martinez's title in a mandatory defence, with the gangling, misleadingly-dangerous "Mongoose" claiming he was destined to regain the title.

"It was a tough ordeal against a boxer of Donaire's ability, especially fighting with a broken jaw," said Mathebula.

"But I always believed I could regain the title and this is my big chance."

Meanwhile, in England, Malinga would be aiming to emulate his legendary uncle, Sugarboy Malinga, by upsetting a local hero and finally becoming the IBF bantamweight champion when he faces Hall for the vacant title.

In 1996, Sugarboy Malinga came to England as a clear underdog against the formidable Nigel "The Dark Destroyer" Benn, but outboxed his much-vaunted opponent for the WBC super middleweight title.

Malinga has twice been involved in a bid for the bantamweight title, suffering a crushing first-round knock-out defeat against Japan's renowned Hozumi Hasegawa in 2010 and, two years later, being outpointed by equally formidable Mexican Leo Santa Cruz in the US.

"I'm familiar with fighting in foreign countries against boxers enjoying huge home support and it's not going to worry me having to do it again," Malinga said.

"This fight is for my father and the need to bring a title back into the family again."

Like Mathebula in Spain, Malinga seemed to have an advantage in skill over his opponent, but the rugged Hall is unrelenting in his approach and will attempt to overcome the South African with an all-action, unrelenting approach.

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