By Ron Jackson
Jeffrey Mathebula and Takalani Ndlovu who have now reached the veteran stage meet for the third time in an IBF junior featherweight title eliminator at Carnival City, Brakpan on Saturday night. The 35-year-old Ndlovu from Soweto won on a split decision on September 1, 2010, and in the rematch on March 21, 2012 Mathebula, 33, won on a split decision.
Both are experienced fighters with Ndlovu making his pro debut on April 24, 1999 and in a distinguished career he has won the South African featherweight, IBO junior featherweight, World Boxing Foundation featherweight and IBF featherweight titles.
The talented Mathebula of Malamulele in the Northern Province who is ranked at number six by the IBF made his pro debut on February 17, 2001. He was an outstanding amateur winning the South African featherweight championship in 1999 and 2000. He also represented South Africa at the 2000 Sydney Olympics but was eliminated in the second round. As a professional he has also won the IBO Inter-Continental super bantamweight, WBC International featherweight and IBF junior featherweight titles.
Since the victory over Ndlovu in March 2012 Mathebula (26-4-2, 14 KOs) lost to Nonito Donaire in a clash for the WBO and IBF junior featherweight belts in July of the same year. In the fight against the Filipino Donaire, Mathebula put up a gutsy performance and despite suffering a fractured jaw he went the full 12 rounds .
Since his loss to Mathebula, Ndlovu (33-8, 18 KOs) ranked at number seven by the IBF, has only had one fight, a disputed points loss in an IBF junior featherweight title eliminator against Alejandro Lopez of Mexico.
The taller Mathebula has a tight guard with a long reach and good jab but has been known to tire in the later rounds. Mathebula will have work on the inside to nullify Mathebula’s reach and height advantages. This could be another close fight but with Mathebula having the edge over the twelve rounds.
On the undercard in a battle of southpaws South Africa’s Vusi Malinga (20-4-1, 12 KOs) faces Diarth Gabutan (18-1-2, 9 KOs) of the Philippines in an eliminator for the number ranking in the IBF bantamweight division. The title is vacant at the moment.
Malinga, 33, who was born in Katlehong, Gauteng made his pro debut in February 2000, won the South African bantamweight title in July 2002 and the WBC international bantamweight title in October 2003. However, in September 2004 he was stripped of his South African bantamweight title for use of a banned substance and banned for two years. Subsequently the ban was reduced to one year. He returned to action in September 2005 and remained unbeaten in his next six fights before being stopped at 2:37 of the first round by Hozumi Hasegawa in September 2009 when challenging for the WBC bantamweight belt. Since that setback he has only had two fights, a points win over Michael Domingo and loss to Leo Santa Cruz in June last year when challenging for the vacant IBF bantamweight title.
The 24-year-old Gabutan, who is relatively unknown, won the vacant WBO Oriental bantamweight title in July 2010 with a points victory over Jilo Merlin (8-5-1). He has made successful defences against Paul Apolinario (10-5-2), Mecchai Kiatprapa (0-1-0), Petch Twins Gym (debut), Joel Rafols (13-9-2), Dado Cabintoy (9-2-2) and Lande Olin (11-3) in October last year. All the records are from Boxrec.
The ranking of Malinga at number seven and Gabutan at number eight by the IBF is questionable in view of their records. The tournament is presented by Branco Milenkovic of Branco Sports Productions.