By Mesuli Zifo
One can make a strong argument that South African bantamweight Silence Mabuza deserved to be included in the Showtime bantamweight Super Four Classic that should have been completed last month had IBF champion Joseph Agbeko not suffered a sudden and unexpected illness.
Whether which fighter should have made way for Mabuza is another debate although the inclusion of Vic Darchinyan’s name raised a few eyebrows primarily because his success was at the junior bantamweight. When he made forays in the bantamweight he was soundly beaten by Agbeko, a loss which raised doubts about his ability to campaign against the top fighters in the division.
Of course the Armenian-born Australian atoned himself with his impressive beat-down of Johnny Perez in the loser’s finals but one can argue that Mabuza was also beating up Perez in their IBF eliminator on 29 May 2009 before the Colombian pulled off the last gasp victory just seconds before the final bell.
Mabuza took on Perez when the Colombian was at the peak of his unbeaten career and had not yet accumulated the battle scars he had going to the clash against Darchinyan.
Perez confirmed his stature when he dethroned Agbeko in a relentless exchange of bombs which obviously shortened his career the same manner his victory over Mabuza appeared to have had far reaching repercussions for the South African.
In fact there was a school of thought that Mabuza’s two slugfests with former bantamweight king Rafael Marquez in gutsy IBF title challenge in 2005 and 2006 took their toll on his body and that the brutal clash against Perez only served to reopen the healing scars of his back-to-back losses to the Mexican.
After his loss to Perez, Mabuza slipped into oblivion with several unconfirmed reports alleging that he was bothered by facial scar tissues which required him to undergo numerous surgeries.
After brushing off the cobwebs with an easy third round stoppage of unheralded Lwazi Mzolisa last October after an 17-month limbo, Mabuza feels he is ready to make the noise in the bantamweight division again and hopefully throw himself into the rich mix of a possible challenge to the winner of Agbeko vs Abner Mares clash, reportedly rescheduled for a date in August.
But Mabuza (23-3, 19 Kos), now 33 years, has a mammoth task to comprehend when he takes on another fighter who is determined to get back to world title contention Simpiwe Nongqayi on June 11 at Carnival City in Johannesburg, SA.
Nongqayi, a former IBF junior bantamweight champion who made a name for himself when he easily outpointing popular Mexican whirlwind Jorge Arce to win the crown, is moving up a division after struggling to make the junior bantamweight, leading to his six round stoppage defeat by Alberto Rosas to surrender the title in his last bout last July.
In fact since Nongqayi’s upset of Arce, his reign was blighted by reports of weight problems even before his first defence against Frenchman Malik Bouziane, that ended in a draw in April last year.
Whether the 39-year-old Nongqayi (16-1-1, 6 Kos) will be comfortable in the bantamweight is no Mabuza’s concern as the “African Spice” can use every advantage he can muster to climb up the ladder again.
Mabuza and Nongqayi were stablemates at Nick Durandt’s gymnasium and used to engage in sparring sessions which sharpened their knowledge for each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“It is true that Mabuza and I used to spar with each therefore we know each other well,” Nongqayi confirmed, refusing to say who used to get an upper hand.
Having left Durandt shortly after his draw against Bouziane to team up with his amateur trainer Lennox Mpulampula, Nongqayi understands the emotions involved in having to derail his former stablemate’s quest for the bantamweight boxing summit.
“This is business and I hope Mabuza is also taking it as such because we both need the win here,” he said.