No boxer has a name more fitting than Phila Mpontshane if you consider the circumstances he finds himself in.
The 27-year-old – whose name means “get well” – is the only remaining champion at the famed Eyethu Boxing Club whose owner, Mzi Mnguni, is recovering from a heart attack.
Mnguni, who has dedicated his life to boxing, was reportedly badly affected when Eyethu almost closed its doors. So, given those circumstances, Mpontshane’s form has indeed played a pivotal role in Mnguni’s recovery.
Mpontshane knows when he defends his SA junior-lightweight title against Lucky Monyebane in Johannesburg on Sunday that he will not only be carrying with him Mnguni’s hopes, but that of his Eyethu Boxing Club, which has been battling to produce champions lately.
Boxing Mecca caught up with him before his departure.
BOXING MECCA: Phila, you must be excited to finally get back in the ring after being inactive for a while since winning the title.
PHILA MPONTSHANE: Yes my bra, I am very excited. The preparations have been good and I cannot wait to go and retain my title.
BM: Do you draw any inspiration from the fact that you are the only champion from the famed Eyethu Boxing Club and your name which translates to “get well” is fitting, given the poor health condition of club owner “Bra Mzi?”
PM: Eish my bra you have no idea what this means to me. Sometimes I ask myself if this is God’s will for me to be here when “Bra Mzi” is in this condition.
Add the fact that my name means get well and the script cannot be better crafted. All I can say is that I am equal to the task and I know I am partly responsible for “Bra Mzi’s” good health now because boxing is his passion.
BM: I must say you express yourself very well and I am surprised you do not hold a position in a boxers’ association.
PM: Thank you very much my bra.
BM: Why have you been inactive since winning this title from Aphiwe Mboyiya?
PM: Actually I was supposed to defend the title against Majayivana (Siseko Makeleni) last weekend but the fight fell through and this opportunity came along.
PM: You will be making your debut under Rodney Berman and as you know he is a hard man to please. You probably know what happened to Nomeva (Xolisani Ndongeni).
PM: Yes I know all about that, but I can guarantee you that he will be blown away by what I will be doing.
I know what I am capable of.
BM: Are you not worried about the altitude having not fought in Johannesburg before?
PM: No not at all. In fact I will not let anything, including that altitude stand in my way. Like I said, my stablemates are pinning their hopes on me to fly the flag and that is exactly what I intend doing.
BM: But Phila you cannot beat altitude unless you have a plan.
PM: That is why I am leaving this afternoon to be there for the weigh-in tomorrow. I intend to stay indoors until I leave the ring for the fight.
BM: Do you know anything about Monyebane?
PM: Not really but I watched his last fight against Ashley Dlamini. Remember, my stablemate Xolisa Magusha was also fighting on the card against DJ Kriel, so my trainer Ncedo Cecane was there and he knows what he is like. All I can say is that he has decent skills but nothing I have not seen before.
BM: I hear he is a southpaw and he is trained by Harold Volbrecht who is one of perhaps two of the best trainers in the land – the other being Loyiso Mtya. He is able to get the best out of a left-hander having being one himself during his fighting days.
PM: Yes, I know that and I am prepared. Do no forget that I beat a southpaw (Mboyiya) in my last bout, so fighting a left-hander is no big deal to me.
BM: Good luck Phila and I am glad that you understand the weight of the task on your shoulders.
PM: Thanks my bra. I promise that I will return home as a champion.