There will be four world champions in the gym in 2020 — Lerato Dlamini

Lerato Dlamini

Lerato Dlamini believes that the gym he trains at, Hotbox, will have four major title winners by the end of the year.

“Hekkie (Budler) is going to be a WBC champ and I am as well,” said Dlamini.

The WBC Silver Featherweight title holder believes him, Budler, Moruti Mthalane and Azinga Fuzile will all have major belts around their waists.

Before Dlamini can fight for the big one, however, he has to get past Nathaniel Kakololo on March 8 at the Orient Theatre, East London.

“I should look like an elite fighter (against Kakololo),” he said.

Confidence is running high with Dlamini as he is coming from a convincing win over Dave Penalosa in 2019, where many experts felt he was the underdog going into the fight.

“I drew a lot of confidence you know. I perform better when I’m the underdog. But now I don’t have to lower my performance next week. I’m going to raise the bar. I’m really confident going into this fight,” said the fighter nicknamed “Lights Out”.

The importance of the matchup cannot be underestimated as Dlamini knows that he is edging closer to a world title shot. He currently ranked fourth by the WBC and with talk that world champion Gary Russell is planning to move up to 130 pounds, Dlamini could find himself in a position to fight in an eliminator in the near future.

He is not getting ahead of himself though.

“I can’t overlook Nathaniel. I need to get through him and then I will look forward to the future. This is a must-win fight for me,” he said.

“This fight is very big for me, bigger than the Penalosa fight. So I’m going to look impressive. I’m focused, I’m disciplined and I’m ready.”

So what are Dlamini’s predictions for this fight?

“Judging by how I’ve been training and sparring I’m going to knock him out,” he says.

“I don’t know which round, I can’t predict which round but he’s very tough. Maybe in the later rounds I’ll stop him.”

Lights Out feels he has had the good preparations for this bout.

“I’ve been putting in rounds with (Ludumo) Lamati, Anthony Grobelaar, David Rajuille, Lusanda Komanisi, recently (Tshifiwa) Munyai and (Ronald) Malindi. So I’ve had very good sparring partners. Different styles of boxing. So I’m feeling good going into this fight. Camp has been amazing.”

Altamura believes SA will produce more champions

Mike Altamura and Colin Nathan.

MTK Global International Consultant Mike Altamura believes that there are a number of South African fighters who can become international superstars in years to come. The boxing manager spent a week in the country and was in East London over the weekend for the Azinga Fuzile-Shavkat Rakhimov fight.

“There was (Khanyile) Bulana, the other night, who overcame an acid test. A lot of people wrote him off completely in that fight (against Phila Mpontshana). So he’s moved now to 12-0. I think he’s got a good future, we just have to be smart with the kind of fights that will move him forward and keep developing his skill set,” said he said.

Altamura also mentioned Luyanda Ntwanambe whose fight against Fikile Mlonyeni excited many fans.

“I think he’s very, very talented. Very raw, he has is fighting spirit and he had a good test the other night because he was under heavy assault in rounds seven and eight where the other guy (Mlonyeni) was game and tested him to the body and he came back from that. He’s still a young kid, I believe 8-0-1 but I think he’s got a good future,” he said.

The Australian, who has been managing fighters for 19 years, also spoke about Lerato Dlamini who is ranked seventh by the WBC.

“Boxing is so record driven in this generation that people see that he lost on debut but they don’t see that he lost on debut, they just see a loss and write him off a little bit. But I think he can give a lot of the top featherweights in the world a hell of a tough time. He might not be on a lot of people’s radars. I know here he is because he beat Simphiwe Vetyeka and a lot of notable fighters in South Africa. Obviously there is the win over Dave Penalosa,” he said.

The fighters he talked about are signed with MTK Africa, which is headed by Colin Nathan with Altamura working closely with him.

So what are the plans for the fighters?

Regarding Dlamini he said: “The key is to just build his ranking. Hopefully within the next 12 to 18 months close in on a world title eliminator for him and deliver him the opportunity. I believe he’s got the skills to be at that level so I think we just have be proactive in setting the plans in motion, keep him busy and see where it takes us. He’s got a very good local promoter as well (Rumble Africa) so that makes it easier from a management perspective.”

“Hekkie Budler we just looking where to place him. Maybe place him somewhere in November and then just another assault on a world title. He’s still at that level, he’s a hell of fighter. This might be the last run of his career so let’s make it a great one.”

What about the legendary Moruti Mthalane?

“He’s like fine win,” he says. “It’s an incredible story. One of my closest friends outside of boxing is Hussein Hussein and Moruti beat him in a world title eliminator 12 years ago. Never in my wildest dreams did I think Moruti would be a force 12 years later and never would I have thought that this last world title run I’d have the opportunity to work with a South African boxing legend like that. Such a pleasant, nice and humble man. You know he’s a fighter we positioned for the IBF World Title. Then the subsequent opportunity we landed in Macau and also the mandatory defense in Japan. Every time he comes to me and he’s like ‘you know Mike thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me and my family and for all the other South African boxers’. I’m like you got it the wrong way ‘thank you for letting me be part of your journey and even if you in the last few years of your career, thank you for letting me be part of your story and legacy’. Looks like we’ve got a big fight announcement for him which is in its final stages of negotiating.”

Mthalane might have just a few fights left in his magnificent career but MTK’s involvement in Africa might just help us see more African fighters given the opportunity to fight for major titles.

The boxers are the stars — Colin Nathan

Lerato Dlamini and Colin Nathan.

Colin Nathan has seen his fighters pulling off one great victory after another as his gym has been on an incredible run in recent years. The latest win being, off course, Lerato Dlamini outclassing Dave Penalosa in Saudi Arabia.

You would think the trainer/manager Nathan would want to take credit for these achievements but that is not the case. He believes it is the fighters who make him look good.

“Without the fighter we don’t have the sport, we don’t have jobs, we don’t have careers. It’s because of them,” he says.

The trainer known as “Nomakanjani” spoke to 10 Count about the state of affairs at his Hot Box Gym, No Doubt Management and MTK Africa.

“The gym and the team are still on a high because of Lerato’s outstanding upset victory against all odds. A lot of people in this country wrote him off for this fight. I thought he boxed out of his skin and produced a world class performance and kept the South African flag smiling,” says Nathan.

The manager also talked about former two-weight world champion Hekkie Budler who is back in training after losing his WBA title to Hiroto Kyoguchi, last December.

“We’ve got a championship that we are working on for him,” said Nathan.

Nomakanjani also talked about Ryno Liebenberg who was recently a victim of a controversial decision in Germany. His fight against Nick Hannig was declared a draw despite many people being of the opinion that he had won the bout.

“I thought he won the fight eight rounds to four. I was trying to be as objective and unbiased as possible. Getting a draw in Germany is pretty much as good as getting a win, so I’m very proud of him,” said Nathan.

“People are asking what’s next? We obviously working on a rematch towards the end of the year for that fight. Ryno proved that he’s still got a lot of fights in him still at this stage of his career.”

Which other fighters will be in action soon?

“I’ve got Hedda Wolmarans fighting for the SA junior welterweight title (against Nomandithini Ndyambo) on the fourth of August. I’ve go Shervontaigh Koopman fighting next week on the undercard of Ludumo Lamati-ichie Mepranum for Rumble Africa Promotions. We’ve got (Simpiwe) Konkco-Wanheng Menayothin that I’m busy putting together right now. Also finalizing Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov and Azinga Fuzile. So we very busy,” said Nathan.

The manager told 10 Count that there is still “a lot of work being done behind the scenes” regarding Konkco’s WBC strawweight title challenge and Fuzile’s junior lightweight IBF title eliminator.

Despite many people not believing that South African boxers can go all the way to the top of the sport, Nathan is determined to keep pushing his charges to greatness. He believes recent results have proven that local fighters have what it takes.

“It proves that we’ve got the talent to go abroad and (fighters) carve their names in stone. We have the ability, we have the talent and we just need the opportunities,” he says.

“We proving that now, we’ve got the opportunities now and we getting the results.”

Looking back at the weekend: Dlamini is top performer

So many in the main stream media are talking about what an amazing sporting weekend we have just had. They are talking about tennis, cricket, Formula 1 racing and netball.

While South Africa’s netball team were brilliant over the weekend and deserve all the credit that they have received, South Africans should also know that a certain Lerato Dlamini stepped into the world stage as an underdog and dominated Filipino Dave Penalosa to claim the WBC Silver Featherweight title on Friday.

In front of a huge crowd in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Dlamini dropped his fancied and previously unbeaten opponent twice to convincingly move in to the top 10 in the WBC rankings as he searches for a world title.

In front of Saudi Arabian royalty and some sport’s biggest names such as Lennox Lewis and Paulie Malignaggi, the man from Welkom put on a spectacular performance to beat the nephew of former world champion Gerry Penalosa.

In my opinion this was the performance of the weekend in the squared circle anywhere in the world.

Question is where does the 25-year-old go from here? I’ll say far, very far in the sport.

He’s now ranked in the top 10 by the WBC and will surely have more big fights in the future. Maybe more match ups in the 62 000 seater King Abdullah Sports City Stadium?

Before the fight Dlamini had said that he would use the opportunity to help get bigger fights.

This we look forward to, in the meantime it’s “Lights Out”.

‘I’m going to be the driver of the show’ — Dlamini

Lerato Dlamini (left) in a previous fight against Simpiwe Vetyeka. Photo by Nick Lourens.

Lerato Dlamini promised to dominate Dave Penalosa when they meet for the WBC Silver featherweight title in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 12.

“It’s a big title and it can put me in the top 10,” he said.

“My opponent is undefeated but he’s been fighting bums. He’s been fighting guys that have more losses than wins you know. If I had a chance to fight those opponents I could have knocked them out as well.”

Dlamini, who is nicknamed “Lights Out”, believes he can outwork the Filipino.

“He’s strong but he doesn’t have stamina. He doesn’t have endurance and he gets tired quickly,” said the South African.

The fight is on the undercard of the much publicized Amir Khan-Billy Dib bout. This means that there is a chance of international exposure for the 23-year-old from Welkom.

“A big performance can put my name out there. I can get recognition and I can get bigger fights because of my style I think I’m going to put on a good show,” said Dlamini.

The fight comes after a frustrating period for Lights Out who was disappointed when his fight against Mfusi Maxhayi was cancelled due to the latter being overweight, last December.

“It was really frustrating because I was ready for the fight and my opponent came in almost 3kg overweight,” says Dlamini. “So we didn’t take the fight because he was way overweight. It was frustrating because I’ve been putting in work cutting weight, training hard and in the last minute the fight didn’t happen because my opponent was overweight.”

Dlamini is eager to put that episode behind him and concentrate on Penalosa.

“I’ve seen tapes of him (Penalosa) and I’ve watched two to three fights and he has a very good right hook. He’s very strong and comes forward all the time. But he’s one dimensional. He doesn’t have a jab he only has a right hook, straight left and he can bang the body as well,” says the South African.

Lights Out gave his idea of how the fight will go.

“I’m going to break him down. Going to be tight for the first four rounds because that’s where he’s strong. After that I think the second half of the fight is going to be my show. I’m going to be the driver of the show,” he said.

The featherweight division is one that is filled with talented fighters around the world and Dlamini has been looking out for potential opponents.

“I’d like to fight Abner Mares and also Miguel Marriaga. I heard Oscar Valdez is moving up,” he said.

Dlamini boasts a win over former world champion Simpiwe Vetyeka, which he believes has given him a lot of confidence.

“You never know how ready you are until you step inside the ring with the big dogs. So I feel like at this point in my life I can fight anyone. It doesn’t matter who the name is I can fight them. I will test myself and this is boxing, you know that somewhere somehow you going to be thrown in there with the wolves and there’s nowhere to run but to fight.”

Konkco gets shot at WBC

Simpiwe “Chain Reaction” Konkco will have his shot at the world title. The WBC has ordered for Konkco’s camp and strawweight title holder Wanheng Menayothin to start negotiations for a championship fight.

“We are very excited about this. It’s been a long time since a South African fought for the WBC title, I think it’s been eight years and we are looking forward to this opportunity,” said Chain Reaction’s trainer/manager Colin Nathan.

Menayothin (53-0) recently beat Tatsuya Fukuhara in defense of his famous green belt.

“It’s going to be a tough fight but it’s just great for South African boxing that we getting these legitimate world title shots. We’ve won some of them and I plan on Konkco doing the impossible thing and that’s beat Menayothin,” said Nathan.

The champion has never fought outside of Thailand and is unlikely to want to travel to face the South African.

“Look I don’t think it’s an ideal situation, given the situation in Thailand. It’s very difficult to win in Thailand but naturally I’m going to request neutral officials, I’m going to be training Konkco in a sauna suit for this camp for him to get used to the heat and fighting outdoors. This is a very important fight for him and I’m very excited about it,” said the trainer.

Negotiations should start within the next 24 hours and if the camps cannot reach an agreement then it will go to purse bids.

Konkco has been the WBC’s number one contender for over a year and his manager is pleased they finally have the fight.

The next few months will be busy for Nathan with Lerato Dlamini taking on Dave Panelosa for the WBC Silver featherweight belt in Saudi Arabia and Azinga Fuzile due to face Kenichi Ogawa in an IBF Junior Lightweight eliminator. There is also talk of flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane facing Charlie Edwards later this year while another champion who Nathan co-manages, DeeJay Kriel, is likely to defend his IBF minimumweight title later this year.

“We busy, this is something that I’ve always craved for my fighters – legitimacy and it starts by fighting for the big championships and that’s what we doing,” said the manager who is also the head of MTK Africa.