ZIMBABWE’S boxing superstar Charles Manyuchi served yet another notice that he is ready to challenge the globe’s best when he powered to his 15th straight win by beating Russia’s Dmitry Mikhaylenko last night and become the World Boxing Council welterweight silver champion on a landmark day for the country.
Just a day before Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and British challenger, Amir “King” Khan battle in their multi-million dollar Las Vegas showdown for the WBC middleweight crown, Manyuchi showed that he now belongs to the elite of boxing with a superb victory that will make him one of the big names in the sport.
The 27-year-old Zimbabwean, who won his second straight fight on European soil, could have boxed his way to a multi-million dollar fight, in the near future, after defying the odds to beat Mikhaylenko before a capacity 27 000 home crowd for the Russian at the DIVS Hockey Arena in Ekaterinburg.
There had been fears that Manyuchi could suffer from ring rust, having last fought competitively in July last year, while his opponent — who was unbeaten until he met the Zimbabwean superstar — has been fighting on the circuit.
That Manyuchi won the fight on a unanimous points decision show his dominance of his opponent, given that usually it’s difficult in boxing for a visiting athlete to be adjudged the winner on points, and demonstrated the pedigree of this brilliant Zimbabwean boxer.
For a man who plunged into training for just a few months, and who has endured the nightmare of having to deal with a relationship with his Zambian promoters that had broken down until Sports and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane intervened to bring the two parties back together, Manyuchi’s victory last night was very impressive.
He now relinquishes his WBC international welterweight title and is now the holder of the silver belt whose other former holders include British boxer Khan who will be paid a cool US$13 million for his showdown with Alvarez in Las Vegas tonight.
It was the Russian boxer’s first defeat in 22 professional fights and that it was delivered at home, before his boisterous fans, should have been hard to take.
But who cares?
Manyuchi was simply too good, too tactical and, at times even magical, as he set about winning another big battle and clearing another hurdle in search for greatness in the world.
The judges scored 116-114; 118-110 and 115-113 all in favour of the Zimbabwean superstar who captured the crown by a unanimous points decision, delivering a landmark victory that will cheer the spirits of millions of Zimbabweans around the world.
Last night scores of Zimbabweans were calling The Herald wanting o know the outcome of the fight and, today, they will wake up to the good news that their man delivered.
Naturally, a big welcome bash awaits the Sportsman of the Year when he touches down at Harare International Airport with his local sponsors, Mr T35, promising “yet another surprise present for the champion.”
Minister Hlongwane was thrilled by the victory last night.
“I am so humbled by Manyuchi’s determination to raise the flag of our country and boxing so high against all the odds, the very cold weather conditions in Russia, massive and obviously intimidating crowd and a career path that almost got off the rails.
“Manyuchi has continued to win for country and for himself.
“A big congratulations to him and to the boxing fraternity in Zimbabwe for this important feat.
“His ‘never say die’ attitude, a durable spirit to make Zimbabwe a winning nation and to give joy and happiness to all sport loving people is a cause for celebration. Well done son of the soil.
Manyuchi and his management’s five-year plan to see him enter the five-digit purse category remain on course.
Sadly, an opportunity for Zimbabweans to watch the match live on ZTV was lost after the national broadcaster could not raise the US$10 600 that had been charged for the live feed after UK-based Zimbabwe sports administrator, Marshall Gore, secured the television rights.
Gore, who travelled to Russia to cheer Manyuchi, is also the Zanu-PF UK chairman.
He had acquired the rights from the promoter, German Titov of TITOV Boxing Promotions LLC.
“It was my wish to make the nation feel inspired, so they could appreciate and emulate the ambassadorial role played by Manyuchi,” said Gore who was also in Italy for Manyuchi’s last fight.
The sold out bill, which had a capacity 27 000 spectators filling the ice hockey venue, was described by promoter German Titov as the biggest crowd to for such a sporting discipline in Yekatarinburg.
by Robson Sharuko and Gilbert Munetsi