“Don’t judge me on the Barrera fight, Mzonke is still alive.” This was the plea of former WBC junior lightweight world title contender Mzonke Fana on Friday night, after he put on a sterling display to outpoint Jack Asis of the Philippines over ten rounds at the Nasrec Center south of Johannesburg. In his second appearance since his blowout against Barrera, Fana is looking good. He’s fighting more flatfooted, he has more muscle on his frame and fights with a confidence that was lacking pre-Barrera.
Fana, 34-3 (9), controlled the fight from the outset and dictated the pace with his left jab. Asis, 13 -2-5 (3), clearly came for a fight and looked to be on the hunt for a knockout throughout the bout which was fought at a solid pace. He did land on occasion, but the sturdier Fana absorbed the blows with little effect.
The South African kept his composure the entire fight and looked extremely focused at the task at hand. While Asis gave of his best, whenever he threw a punch it came back with interest and Fana gave the game fighter a solid beating. Had Fana been the owner of a sleep producing punch the bout certainly would have ended at the halfway mark.
If Fana is to get back into the mainstream of world boxing then he needs to do so now. He has reinvented himself and in his last two outings has shown that he has certainly matured into a better, more composed boxer.
Asis, who holds the featherweight title in the Philippines, also holds a win over Aaron Melgarejo who challenged Jeffrey Mathebula for the WBC international featherweight title on the undercard of the Fana – Asis bout.
This fight was without a doubt the best I have ever seen from Mathebula. Up until now I have seen nothing special in this man who has been highly touted since being an Olympian in his amateur days. He did nothing in the Olympics and frankly I always found him to have a very awkward looking style and thought him to be overrated.
Mathebula, 17-2-1 (9), who has recently changed trainers, looked a brand new boxer in this the first defense of his title. He worked from behind a solid left jab, threw good combinations and for the most part stayed out of trouble. Malgarejo, who fell to 11-5 (3) with this fight, is another all heart fighter from the Philippines. He started the fight with his hands high and throwing every punch with conviction, and never gave up the hope of catching his taller, quicker opponent.
In the fourth round Malgarejo had his finest moment as he attacked Mathebula’s body with vigor and clearly had the South African in some discomfort. Mathebula never allowed him to get that close again and kept him on the end of his jab for most of the night. His glove was in Malgarejo’s face so often that the Filipino must have thought it was growing out of his nose.
Whenever Malgarejo was about to release one of his left or right hooks Mathebula would pepper him with a left jab and right cross. To his credit he did keep coming forward and if he had been facing a less fluid fighter, he could be a dangerous opponent. Out of the many fights of Mathebula I have seen, this was the first time he looked comfortable in the ring and, yes, he does look to have potential.
On occasion he was carrying his left hand very low and jabbing from this position, taunting his prey to take a shot, knowing that he could counter faster than the attack would come. While many of the greats the likes of Hearns and Ali used this tactic on occasion, it is a risk and I wouldn’t encourage it. A slight error in timing and you could end up counting the stars. In the end it was a good night of boxing and it will be interesting to see where Fana and Mathebula will move to from here.
The only loss on Mathebula’s record is a loss to current IBO featherweight world champion Thomas Mashaba, who’ll be making the second defense of his title on July 21 in Carltonville.
Other big news is that Laila Ali is scheduled to face Ljeoma Egbunine, an Atlanta-based Nigerian in Cape Town, on August fifth. The Ali – Egbunine bout will headline an all women fight card as part of a celebration for women. The entire month of August has traditionally been seen as women’s month in South Africa in recent years.