The postponements haven’t helped, but trainer Sean Smith assures fans of exciting SA welterweight champion Thulani Mbenge that all is on track for the first title defence against top contender Mzwixolo Ndwayana at Emperors Palace on September 9.
The tournament had to be postponed after successive opponents pulled out of the fight against headliner Kevin Lerena, who will be contesting the IBO championship.
“More work, more grinding,” was Smith’s summary of recent weeks where all Mbenge’s focus has been on preparing for a stern examination of his unbeaten record.
“Ndwayana is a very strong guy. He’s a welterweight who can give a good crack, but I’m confident ‘Tulz’ will break him down. His sparring has been good, his range good too.”
Mbenge has had a good year, prevailing against two tough opponents in Sean Ness and Jay Inson. The last fight was a sober reminder of the standards required at international level.
“The level is high,” said Smith, who believes there is often more value in getting rounds under the belt than simply banging out opponents.
He also cites the experience of Mbenge as a crucial cornerstone of his craft. “I like to work with guys who’ve travelled and learned to handle the big stage. They’re up to the challenge and they work hard.”
Ndwayana will offer an altogether different challenge.
With 19 fights under his belt – just two losses – he is as tough as they come. And with one failed crack at the SA title, he will know precisely what it will take to dethrone Mbenge, who nonetheless looms as a formidable obstacle.