By Mesuli Zifo
JEFFREY Mathebula’s name might not resonate with boxing fans worldwide but the IBF junior featherweight champion is confident of introducing himself in a dramatic fashion if he lands the clash against Nonito Donaire in the United States on June 30.
Mathebula is one of two shortlisted fighters together with Mexican Cristian Mijares for a date with the Filipino born American and it looks very likely that the South African will be the one on the opposite corner at the Home Depot Center.
Although he does not boast a glossy fight record, having lost three times in 31 bouts including two draws, the Sydney 2000 Olympian says he will be up to the challenge if negotiations currently underway between his promoter Branco Milenkovic and Top Rank sway the fight his way.
Mathebula holds the IBF junior featherweight crown which is a tantalizing target for Donaire as he seeks to add another title to his WBO diadem.
And the 32-year-old fighter who goes by the “Mongoose” moniker says he is probably targeted as Donaire’s possible foe because of the title he holds.
“I know that the focus is mainly on my title with no particular interest on me as a fighter and I think that is where they are making a grave mistake,” BoxingScene.com was told by Mathebula who doesn’t shy away from making bold predictions said.
Mathebula lifted the title from compatriot Takalani Ndlovu this past March to avenge the controversial defeat he had suffered in their title elimination clash 18 months earlier.
After the highly debatable defeat, he dusted himself off and launched another quest for the title which Ndlovu had ironically captured in his own revenge from Canadian Steve Molitor.
In the days leading up to his rematch, Mathebula launched a scathing attack on Ndlovu, telling everyone who cared to listen about how he would exact his revenge “because I am a smarter fighter than Ndlovu.”
And he backed up his bold words with a spirited performance down the stretch after appearing to be losing the fight in the early rounds.
His controversial loss to Ndlovu was not the first time Mathebula had found himself on the wrong end of the judges’ decision after he was adjudged as a split decision loser in his WBA/IBF title challenge against then champion Celestine Caballero in Panama on April 30, 2009.
Shipped out as cannon fodder who was expected to easily succumb to the Panamanian’s tools such as height and reach advantage which had helped Caballero to destroy Molitor in four rounds in a unification clash just a fight earlier, Mathebula who is no dwarf either, surprised detractors when he constantly beat Caballero to the punch, sparking Panamanian media to described the decision against him as “daylight robbery.”
Although he did not get the verdict against Caballero, Mathebula is proud of the performance he put forth and warns those who doubt his mettle to watch the video footage of that fight.
“People look at my fight record and see the three losses and immediately dismiss me as [a] nobody,” he said.
“They do not know that at least two of those losses were not supposed to be losses but I guess this is turning out to be a blessing in disguise for me because I am seen as an easy opponent whose title can easily be taken away.”
Mathebula says he already has inside info about Donaire from his stablemate IBF flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane who lost via a cut induced six rounds stoppage on November 1, 2008.
Mthalane was beginning to figure out the Filipino Flash as the rounds progressed but on seeing blood streaming down Mthalane’s left eye, Donaire seized the opportunity to bail out of the fight by imploring referee Joe Cortez to call the ringside doctor and Cortez fell for the trick.
Donaire then flatly refused to grant Mthalane the IBF mandated rematch opting to move up a division instead.
Mathebula says Mthalane has been giving him a heads up on how to beat Donaire and with his height and awkward style he has no doubt that he would flummox the Filipino Flash and possible stop him inside the distance.
Milenkovic declined to reveal how the negotiations are going with Top Rank besides admitting that Mathebula’s chances to fight Donaire have been significantly boosted.