By Jake Donovan
A road trip was always in store for Takalani Ndlovu’s first alphabet title defense; it was just a matter of which country he would be heading.
Seven months after making the third time a charm in his title winning effort against Steve Molitor, Ndlovu (32-6, 18KO) returns to the ring tonight when he defends against Giovani Caro in his opponent’s native Mexico.
Ndlovu seeks his first road win in nearly five years, having twice come up short in Canada against Molitor and also landing on the wrong end of a disputable points loss to Fernando Beltran Jr three years ago in an ESPN2-televised bout in Nashville.
Despite the lack of success on the road, Ndlovu’s handlers felt it was in his best interest to travel abroad while awaiting the status of a mandatory challenger.
“We had three offers for Takalani’s voluntary defense,” notes Branco Milenkovic, Ndlovu’s promoter. “One was from Russia, another from Thailand (to face Thangthong Kiattaweesuk) and Caro. We took decision to go with one from Mexico.”
Aside from worrying about getting a fair shake an opponent’s backyard, there is also the concern of potential ring rust. Ndlovu hasn’t fought since lifting the title from Molitor in March, matching a career-long seven-month period of inactivity as he heads into tonight’s contest.
His team doesn’t seem too concerned about it, but believe that even a slightly off version should still be good enough to get the job done.
“Takalani is ready and in my personal opinion, if he fights 70% like when he fought Molitor in March, there shouldn’t be any problems,” Milenkovic insists. “Of course, it is big opportunity for Caro and he will give his best.”
Caro (22-9-4, 17KO) is coming off of a loss to Ndlovu’s countryman Simpiwe Vetyeka this past July, a fight that snapped a career-best nine fight win streak. However, the loss may be indicative of what he brings to the table, as he often falls short when stepping up in class.
The lone exception comes in one of their common opponents, Ricardo Castillo. Ndlovu’s last road win came against Castillo, albeit in controversial fashion in taking a split decision that most ringside observers in the Chicago venue felt should have went the other way.
Caro enjoyed much greater success, scoring an 11th round knockout over Castillo in their May ’08 fight, one that reads as his best win to date. While coming up short against Vetyeka, he still gave a spirited effort, enough for Ndlovu to take him seriously.
“Vetyeka is very good boxer, so I will not use this as Caro weakness but durability.”
With a victory, Milenkovic would like to set up big things in 2012 for Ndlovu, who turns 34 in January.
“I don’t like to talk about future and look beyond Caro, but if everything is O.K, there were some offers regarding unification and this may be the way to go. Otherwise, the winner of this fight will have a mandatory defense, which happens to be my boxer, #2 rated Jeffrey Mathebula (whom Ndlovu outpointed last September).”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at JakeNDaBox@gmail.com.
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