One of the key elements which attract fans to the sport of boxing is the fact that they can relate to the challenge faced by the boxer when he enters the ring. The boxer symbolizes someone trying to succeed. That’s why people like to see an underdog do well. If an underdog wins it inspires hope in the majority; after all, the majority of people are underdogs in their own reality. It is this hope which is gradually emerging in South Africa.
A few months ago, few believed that Mzonke Fana would actually receive the opportunity to fight Marco Antonio Barrera for the WBC junior lightweight world title. Fighting for the WBC crown alone seemed a farfetched dream. Fighting against a living legend like Barrera for the title seemed completely unattainable.
Remember, only a handful of South African boxers have ever contested a WBC world title. A few have even reached the status of being #1 contender for that organization, but never received the opportunity. Part of the doubt is also born in the instilled belief in many South Africans that they are just not worthy. There are many reasons for this self-doubt, which would take a long explanation, but what is important here is that that doubt is gradually being erased.
While there are arguably more marketable match-ups than Fana for Barrera, this one means more than just giving someone who has earned the right to fight for the world title his turn. This fight is a symbol that if one perseveres and pursues the correct channels he can still reach the top. I earlier mentioned that there was a hope emerging in this part of the world, a hope that could play a role in what is quickly becoming one of the biggest fights featuring a South African in recent times.
When the match was first confirmed, even Fana’s most ardent supporters were hard-pressed to give their man even a sliver of a hope of upsetting the likes of Barrera. Now, however, with a month left to the fight taking place on April 9th in El Paso, Texas, there is a cloud of optimism on the rise. Fana has already achieved the perceived impossibility of landing the fight, so why can’t he take it to the next level and claim the title?
Boxing at present is in dire straights in the country. While there are plans for salvaging the sport and building it back to its former glory, a win by Fana would escalate the process. The powers that be realize this and thus Fana enjoys support in his quest from almost every quarter. Also local fight fans are craving a champion with a respected title and their hopes are pinned on Fana. On paper, in debate and probably even in the ring, Fana does not have a chance against Barrera, but just because he can’t win, doesn’t mean he won’t win.
Fana doesn’t have the punching power to concern Barrera, but what he does have is a big heart and a sense of purpose. He knows he won’t win just but fighting for himself, he’ll be fighting for an entire country, and as soon as you add those patriotic elements anything becomes possible. Fana does have quick hands and if Barrera falls into the tactic of looking for the big knockout in front of his home crowd, he may just find the South African piling on the points and if it goes the distance – perhaps a nation’s dream could be realized. It may seem unlikely, but this is boxing and on the night he who wants it most could claim the crown.
In other South African news, Nkosinathi Joyi made the third defense of his national mini flyweight title on Saturday night when he convincingly outpointed Mawanda Sineko over 12 rounds at the Orient Theatre in East London. While many thought Sineko would be stopped inside the distance, he put up a gutsy display to stay the distance. There have been a number of queries in regard the proposed rematch between Cassius Baloyi and Lehlo Ledwaba, which was meant to take place at the end of February. This bout was cancelled well over a month ago and at this stage there are no talks of a rematch taking place in the near future.