Boxing Snippets

Golden Gloves fighters talk the talk

Roarke Knapp admits he used to let his imagination run wild as he conjured images in his mind of one day fighting at Emperors Palace for a championship title.
On June 15, those thoughts will come to life when he boxes Jorge Garcia Perez of Mexico for the IBO junior-middleweight title.
He laughs at the memory of the days when he was a dreamer. “It’s been eight years of slog, but now it’s on the cusp,” he said at the announcement of the fight by Golden Gloves last week. “I won’t be watching videos – I never do – but I know Perez comes tough and I’ll be prepared to fight tough.”
The 26-year-old said his injured hand is now 100 percent recovered and he holds nothing back whether hitting the bag or sparring.
Invariably, much of his sparring is done with Shervantaigh Koopman, the ice man of local boxing who fights Wendy Toussaint of the US on the undercard.
Knapp and Koopman give as good as they get and there’s mutual respect between the pair, particularly as they share a weight class and a trainer in savvy Vusi Mtolo.
Koopman (29) has seen clips of Toussaint, remarking that he’s not a big mover, but appears to be strong.
“He’s a very good counter-puncher with solid technique. He’s the sort of fighter who capitalises on mistakes.”
The third member of the Mtolo clan is Beaven Sibanda, the 22-year-old who hails from Zimbabwe but now calls Johannesburg home.
Undefeated in six fights, he is matched tough against Siphamandla Baleni in a strawweight eight-rounder.
“Baleni’s tough, but my man’s got power,” warned Mtolo, who said Sibanda’s sparring sessions are fierce, and enjoyable for those who care to watch.
Sibanda is just starting out, but has already enjoyed a career high. Last July, “Flame of Zimbabwe” was invited to publicly spar an exhibition with Floyd Mayweather during the superstar’s visit to his country, a singular highlight he treasures.
Brian Mitchell, the revered former champion and now spokesman for Golden Gloves, stuck his neck out. “I predict he will become world champion.”
It was made in good company too. Apart from Mitchell, two other former IBF champions were in the room: Vuyani Bungu and Welcome Ncita. Stellar company indeed.
With an action-packed undercard, the countdown has begun – 47 days and counting to “No Mercy”.

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