By Herman R Gibbs, South Africa
Evans 'Mamba' Mbamba has had a 10-month lay-off from competitive boxing but ring-rust won't be a factor when he headlines the 'Chesanyama Bill' against Mario 'Maca' Briones for the vacant WBF junior-featherweight title at Graceland Casino, in Mpumalanga on Saturday, June 29.
The tournament will be staged by World Sport Promotions under the directorship of Thinus Strydom, a former 'Promoter of the Year' award winner.
Mbamba's celebrated trainer Nick Durandt, who has produced 21 world and 94 SA champions, said his charge has not only been preparing for this fight but has been active as a sparring partner for several months now.
"Evans won't be affected by the lay-off because he's been active as a sparring partner in my gym long before this fight was on," said Durandt. "And what's more, he was the IBF (flyweight) world champ Moruti (Mthalane) as his chief sparring partner now. Moruti is similar to a Mexican fighter like Briones so Evans will be well prepared.
"This time Evans has just got so much going for him. He has lost two world title shots outside the country but this time he'll be on home soil.
"He'll have the crowd rooting for him, and he'll be in front of his fans.
"He's been unlucky in his previous title attempts when rather hostile conditions prevailed but this time we don't want to get lucky. We want the title on merit.
"Evans has been warned that once the fight starts Briones will put his head down in the best tradition of Mexican boxers. Briones will be no push-over.
"This fight has come at the right time for Evans, who I believe has faced a better calibre of fighter than Briones.
"One has to remember that Evans was once the WBC no 1 contender, and that's the most prestigious (of the organizations)."
The second world title bout on the 'Chesanyama Bill' will be between Gabisile 'Simply the Best' Tshabalala and Australia's Shannon 'Shotgun' O'Connell for the vacant WBF women's featherweight title.
According to her trainer and manager Elias Mpembe, the undefeated Tshabalala (won 8, ko 0, lost 0, drawn-1) is ready for what could be the crowning moment of her fistic career.
"Gabisile would be ready if the fight was tomorrow," said Mpembe. "She's got all the tools for the job, from the jab to uppercut, speed - she's got it all.
"I've looked at tapes of the Aussie girl in training and sparring so that's enough information on the opponent.
"Gabisile is in the best shape of her life and has been sparring with boys because I don't have other girls in my gym. The boys have been going at her hard and strong, so that's great for her preparation.
"All Gabisile wants now is for South Africa's boxing fans to come to Graceland to see her win a world title. She wants people to see why she's regarded as the best 'pound-for-pound' female fighter in South Africa."
Earlier this year, O'Connell (won 7-kn 4, lost 2-kn 0), lost a point decision in Korea where she fought for the WBA title.
The full bill reads:
Lightweight, 4 rounds: Willis Baloyi vs Mpho Babe
Junior middleweight, 4 rounds: Alfonso Tissen vs Vusi Bilankkulu
Junior Welterweight, 6 rounds: Botisepe Mandawe vs Mastercard Manglaza
Lightweight, 6 rounds: Shannon Strydom vs Tshifhiwa Timer Munyai
Super middleweight, rounds: Vhonani Netshidamboni vs Simon Mokwana
WBF Women's Junior Featherweight Title, 10 rounds: Gabisile Tshabalala (SA) vs Shannon O'Connell (Australia)
WBF Junior Featherweight Title, 12 rounds: Evans Mbamba (SA) vs Mario Briones (Mexico)
*Tickets are on sale at www.graceland.co.za box office at R60 per seat. Walk-in fight (pre-fight) before the big one kicks off at 20h00.