Siboniso who? That seems to be the question on the lips of many boxing fans when chatting about Zolani Tete’s maiden World Boxing Organisation (WBO) bantamweight title defence tomorrow evening in Belfast.
Tete is a huge favourite to retain his title having already made a name for himself abroad, while KwaZulu-Natal challenger, Siboniso Gonya, will be involved in his first fight outside this country’s borders, bar the lone trip to Namibia when he upset that country’s boxer Immanuel Naidjala to take the WBO Intercontinental title in April.
Gonya is such a closed book that even pictures of him are not available in the mainstream media.
But in this chat Gonya, reveals that he is much more than a closed book to SA boxing.
BOXING MECCA: Let me confess that before this fight I had never heard about you.
SIBONISO GONYA: You are not alone. On Saturday (tomorrow), not only will I be known in the country, but the whole world will know about me.
BM: Tell me how did you start boxing?
SG: It is quite funny how I started because none of my 37 siblings are boxers. A boxing club was opened in my home of Dukuduku and I got hooked on it.
BM: Hang on. You say 37 siblings?
SG: Yes, my dad has seven wives and 38 children. We are one big happy family.
BM: Wow! Are you still the only boxer in the family ?
SG: No, now it is me and Innocent Mantengu. In fact, Mantengu is my brother from my mother’s side.
BM: Back to the fight. Have you ever met Zolani Tete in person?
SG: Not really but I did bump in to him at the national boxing awards in Durban but we did not speak. I have watched him several times on television so I know his strengths and weaknesses.
BM: What do you think of his predictions that the fight will not go beyond four rounds?
SG: I am actually excited about that because it means he will not run like he likes to do. I must admit that a defence-minded Tete is difficult to contain and if he says he will be going for the knockout it makes my job even easier.
BM: But Gonya you have never fought at this level before, have you?
SG: I do not know about the level but I went to Namibia to easily beat Immanuel Naidjala who was beating up every SA boxer. To me, Tete is just another opponent I have to beat and that is exactly what I will do.
BM: Your record shows a loss by a knockout to Duncan Village boxer Thabo Sishwana.
ZWI MAGUDULELA (Gonya’s trainer jumping in): Let me answer this question. Gonya was still very young and developing when he lost to Sishwana. And we all know Sishwana’s awkward style but we are not making excuses.
BM: Glad you jumped in Zwi. Tell me how many boxers do you train and how do you rate Gonya among them?
WM: My brother, I train reigning SA middleweight champion Christopher Buthelezi, Wiseman Dlomo, Mantengu to mention but a few … but to me Gonya is the best talent from KZN at the moment. Mark my words when I say this boy is special. I have no doubt that he will beat Tete.
BM: Which area do you think Gonya holds an advantage in?
ZM: Zolani Tete has no idea who Gonya is while we know all about him. He will find out just how special he is.
BM: Gonya, how do you feel by the fact that you have been completely dismissed in this fight?
SG: Very happy. That is just how I like it. It will make me to fight my fight without an added pressure from the media. The only pressure I have is to carry out the message of my family and Ngqongoshe (MEC Bongi Moloi) who asked me to bring back this title.
BM: How do you feel about the fact that you are fighting for the world title against a SA boxer in a foreign country?
THULANI MAGUDULELA (Gonya’s promoter jumping in): We are very disappointed because we pleaded with our provincial government to come to our rescue to no avail. But I must thank the office of the MEC for at least recognising us by giving us support including clothing and organising our visa to be here.
BM: You guys will be fighting abroad for the first time bar Namibia.
TM: Tete once also went to fight abroad for the first time and look what he developed into. So to us fighting abroad will not affect us especially as this will be a neutral venue for both Gonya and Tete unlike in Namibia where the fans were cheering for Naidjala.
BM: Good luck guys. Whoever wins will ensure that the title remains in the country.
SG: Thank you for wishing me luck especially as we know that you are from East London. Let me say I have received plenty of well-wishes from East London fans and I highly appreciate it.
FIVE THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT GONYA.
l Gonya comes from a polygamous family with his dad Mzonjani having seven wives and 38 children;
lHis dad is a chief of the Mthethwa tribe under which Shaka Zulu sought refuge when he fled his home in fear of his life;
l His clan name is Mthethwa, Nyambose, Dingiswayo;
l He is related to bantamweight boxer Innocent Mantengu by his mother’s side; and
l He is the only boxer among all his siblings.