Siyabonga Siyo has operated largely on the fringes of South African boxing.
Next month, he will be thrust into the limelight when he heads the “Night of Reckoning” bill at Emperors Palace, fighting crosstown rival Simphiwe Khonco for the IBO mini-flyweight championship.
Despite being softly-spoken, the genial 26-year-old is bursting with confidence, saying “he’s had his time, it’s my turn now.”
Siyo watched Khonco while he was growing up and although he regards him as a complete boxer, he believes he has superior skills.
“I’ve always worked hard, but this time it’s been hectic. I’m giving my all in camp. It’s been my toughest to date and there’s still a month to go,” said the man from Duncan Village.
Despite being unbeaten in just 10 pro fights, Siyo has a world of experience garnered from around 300 amateur bouts that saw him crowned provincial champion five times and SA champion on four occasions.
Originally a soccer player and cricketer, he drifted into boxing upon the urging of his cousin’s father, Ben Mtyaliselo, who continues to train the tyro.
Apart from discovering he had good boxing smarts, he developed a yearning to travel, which the amateur game gave him. Siyo travelled all over SA and overseas for tournaments, trying to emulate his early heroes Gabula Vabaza and Lehlohonolo Ledwaba.
Again displaying his confidence, he says he not only wants to become world champion, he wants to scoop up all the title belts he can.
He says he is a boxer in the traditional sense, slick on his feet with a high work rate, but he will offer greater variety against Khonco.
“I’ve built up a lot of power for this fight. I want to surprise him. The big crowd won’t worry me. As a pro I haven’t fought beyond the Eastern Cape, but I had big crowds in the amateurs. It may even help being away from home where a lot of my fans can take away my focus.”
He says Lito Dante of the Philippines gave him his hardest fight, last year, but he anticipates Khonco will be a step up.
“I accept I’m the underdog, especially as Khonco and Hekkie Budler had the fight of the year last year. But I like this position. When the underdog wins, it will be sweeter.”