Of all the things to be expected in next week’s WBA Pan African welterweight fight between Paul Kamanga and Roman Belaev, the least likely is for Kamanga to cop a shuddering left hook.
He learned this lesson the hard way in his last fight, against Roman Zhailauov, getting put over by a peach of a left hand by the Kazakh.
“I’ve worked hard on keeping my right hand up in the gym,” said Kamanga, explaining that he was going back to his early days, particularly his fight against Zan Jonker, to remind himself of the need to keep his hands up.
Kamanga’s build-up has been unorthodox in the sense that he and trainer Anton Gilmore have travelled from gym to gym for sparring to secure the very best training. Among the best sparring partners has been Sean Smith protégé Thulani Mbenge, who gave Kamanga terrific work and offers similar height to Belaev, who is 5cm taller than Kamanga.
Remarking on Kamanga’s preparation, Gilmore was satisfied. “Paul’s shape is always good, his fitness is never in question. We’ve prepared well, we don’t expect huge problems.”
Labelling the Russian “one-dimensional”, Gilmore said the boxer was similar to Zhailauov with his come-forward style.
“He punches with both hands and is very flat-footed. He’s not the best mover, but crowds you and attempts to beat you that way. Paul’s used to that, he knows what to do.
“Paul caught a big left hook in his last fight, so I imagine Belaev will be there throwing his left hooks. But Paul will be ready.”
Although Kamanga has been pencilled in for a US fight date in May, Gilmore has warned his boxer not to be seduced by that opportunity.
“It’s a massive thing riding on next week, but we can’t dwell too much on it. I’ve told Paul to forget about it until we get the win.”
Given Belaev’s toughness, Gilmore anticipates a distance fight with Kamanga’s youth and fitness proving critical to the outcome.
But Belaev, whose only career defeat came in SA two years ago, is determined to come away a winner this time.
He will bring it hard.