By Mesuli Zifo
Relatively unknown South African fighter Vusi Malinga is rooting for IBF bantamweight champion Joseph Agbeko to beat Abner Mares when they clash in a Showtime Final at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, US on Saturday.
Malinga, who is the IBF mandatory challenger, has already been assured by the IBF of facing the winner of the Agbeko-Mares clash within 90 days and will therefore be watching the fight with keen interest.
Stating his preference, the left hander said he did not mind who the winner will be as long as he will be next in line for the title.
“To me it really does not matter who wins, all I want is to fight for the IBF title as I have worked so hard to get this opportunity,” he said.
However due to his African connection with Agbeko (28-2, 22 Kos) who hails from Ghana, Malinga will not mind engaging the “King Kong” in an all- African battle for the top honors in the bantamweight.
In fact a victory by Agbeko on Saturday will revive a clash that was proposed against Malinga when they were mandated to battle for the IBF title eliminator early last year after Agbeko had surrendered his crown to Colombian Yonnhy Perez in October 2009.
Malinga (20-3-1, 12 Kos) was already preparing to face the Ghanaian when the hierarchy at Showtime came up with the four-men bantamweight tournament idea involving Agbeko, Mares, Vic Darchinyan and Perez.
Instead of engaging in a long winding elimination route, Agbeko earned a direct rematch against Perez while Mares was matched against Darchinyan, leaving Malinga to battle against Filipino Michael Domingo whom he beat on points in South African last October to earn the mandatory status.
Agbeko regained the IBF title by beating Perez while Mares (21-0-1, 13 Kos) saw off Darchinyan to book himself for Saturday’s final.
Malinga admitted that facing Agbeko would be good as he spent considerable time planning and plotting for the Ghanaian’s downfall.
“We went through his video footage to detect his weaknesses when I was to face him for the mandatory,” he said.
“So if he wins I will not start from scratch to prepare for him.”
Malinga is not fazed by the fact that boxing fans would prefer Agbeko-Mares winner to face a more recognizable name such as the WBO and WBC champion Nonito Donaire who is widely recognized as the best fighter in the division.
Such preference is borne by the fact that Malinga is not a known internationally fighter to help garner hype which might attract interest by big US television network.
This is compounded by his first round knockout defeat by Japanese Hozumi Hasegawa when he challenged for the WBC bantamweight title in March 2009.
But the fighter nicknamed “Marvelous” says everything will change when he proves his mettle against the Agbeko-Mares winner.
“Those who doubt my fighting prowess will eat humble pie when I prove my worth against the winner of Saturday’s fight,” he said.