In a bout that promoter Lou DiBella is describing as perhaps the most competitive ever in his lauded Broadway Boxing series, the hard-punching Silence Mabuza of Johannesburg, South Africa, squares off in a 12-round IBF bantamweight elimination bout against veteran Ricardo Vargas of Tijuana, Mexico, on Thursday, April 20, at the Manhattan Center in New York.

The winner will become the mandatory challenger for champion Rafael Marquez of Mexico.

In November 2005, the 29-year-old Mabuza incurred his only loss, a fourth round TKO to Marquez in Stateline, Nevada. The fight was stopped after Mabuza, now 18-1 (15 KOs), received a hellacious cut from a clash of heads. At the time of the stoppage he was being shutout on all three judges’ scorecards.

The well-traveled Vargas, 39-11-3 (13 KOs) lost a 12-round decision to Marquez in a May 2005 title fight. He has also been extremely competitive in minor title bouts against Martin Castillo and Jhonny Gonzalez, and even fought a draw with the still hot WBO super flyweight champ Johnny Tapia in May 1995.

While Mabuza and his manager, Nic Durandt, are both extremely confident about beating Vargas, they are not foolish enough to view him as a faded veteran who is just looking to grab a paycheck in the twilight of his 17-year career.

“I am an African warrior and I am here to showcase what Africans are made of,” Mabuza said at Tuesday’s press conference, which was held at Gallagher’s Steak House in Manhattan.

“I’m not taking anything away from Vargas, but I will beat him and then I want a rematch with Marquez.”

“Vargas is a great fighter, but he can’t punch,” said the always quotable Durandt. “Silence should be the champion right now. Marquez is a great fighter, but he is not unstoppable. The fight was stopped when it was getting tough for him.”

Although Mabuza and Durandt insist they are not looking past Vargas, they can’t seem to stop talking about Marquez.

“We want a rematch with Marquez,” persisted Durandt, who said he protested the decision in the Marquez fight but was told by the IBF that the situation did not warrant the ordering of an immediate rematch.

 “We want to show the world who the best bantamweight is.”

Not only does Durandt think that Mabuza, whose nickname is African Spice, is the best bantamweight on the planet, he believes that he is the most accomplished amateur and quite possibly the best professional to ever hail from South Africa.

“We come from the farthest place on Earth,” said Durandt. “We are given no gifts and all fighters in Africa come up the hard way. What Silence has been able to accomplish is incredible. He is like the Oscar De La Hoya of South Africa, the most decorated amateur .in the country’s history.”

A veteran of over 450 amateur bouts, Mabuza is a former Commonwealth champion, All-African champion, and six-time amateur South African champion. As a pro he has fought many times in his native country, where he has a tremendous fan following, as well as in England, Oklahoma City, and Nevada, including Las Vegas. Fighting in New York does not worry him or Durandt a bit.

“This is just another town,” said Durandt. “And a step closer to a rematch with Marquez.”

Durandt, who has worked with South African luminaries Cassius Baloyi, Philip N’dou, and Sugar Boy Malinga, as well as Hasim Rahman when he trained in South Africa for Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones Jr., and Virgil Hill, says that Mabuza is the easiest fighter of them all to teach.

“He can adapt to anything,” said Durandt. “He can box, fight in pockets, switch when he has to. He can do it all.”

Since he began fighting at the age of 12 at the Tskane Gym in Johannesburg, Mabuza has wanted nothing more than to be a champion boxer. He hopes to accomplish as a pro even more than he did as an amateur.

The bantamweight division is full of champions and top contenders from every corner of the globe. Marquez, Castillo, Jhonny Gonzalez, and Fernando Montiel all hail from Mexico, while Luis Perez is from Nicaragua, Wladimir Didorenko from Germany, Hozumi Hasegawa and Masamori Tokuyama from Japan, former Olympian Jose Navarro from the United States, and Alexander Munoz from Venezuela.

While Mabuza is happy to be in such good company, more than anything else he yearns for that rematch with Marquez.

“He is the only man on his brain,” said Durandt. “Silence is such a good boxer/puncher, it doesn’t matter who he fights. But he feels that he was on his way to winning the IBF title when the fight was stopped. That was hard.”

Durandt knows that with Mabuza’s all-action style, he has the ability to become one of the sport’s superstars. “This kid can fight,” he exhorted. “He came to the States and has not been outclassed at all. You will all see on Thursday night just how good he is. He will be the bantamweight champion of the world.”

For the intelligent and articulate Mabuza, who once entertained thoughts of becoming an attorney, that would be a dream come true for him.

“He is the judge and jury in the ring,” said Durandt.

Thursday’s fight cards will be the first broadcast by SportsNet New York (SNY), the television home of the New York Mets and Jets. Broadway Boxing, a wonderful series that regularly features fighters from New York’s five boroughs, is responsible for keeping grassroots boxing alive in the metropolitan area, will air on the second Sunday following the live events.

“I look forward to making the Broadway Boxing franchise a staple of SportsNet New York’s programming,” said DiBella.

“I am excited to announce that Broadway Boxing, the preeminent stage for New York’s talented boxers, will have a new home on Sunday nights on SportsNet New York,” added Jon Litner, President of SNY.”

“We are looking forward to working with DiBella Entertainment to fortify Broadway Boxing as the stage for New York’s marquee boxing matches.”

Also appearing on Thursday’s card is the murderous punching middleweight Curtis Stevens of Brownsville, Brooklyn. He will put his 11-0 (9 KOs) record on the line against former WBA junior middleweight champion Carl Daniels, 49-7-1 (31 KOs) of St. Louis.

Daniels beat Julio Cesar Green for that vacant title in 1995, but has also lost to champions Julio Cesar Vasquez, Laurent Boudouani, and Bernard Hopkins. If he has anything left, he should provide a stern test for Stevens.

“Experience won’t mean anything when I hit him on the chin,” said Stevens, who is aptly nicknamed Chin Checker for his propensity to knock opponents out with aplomb.

The Hammerstein Center is located in the Manhattan Center on West 34th Street and 8th Avenue. Doors open at 6 PM and the fights start at 7 PM. Call 212-947-2577 for tickets.