The return of the region’s favourite boxer Xolisani “Nomeva” Ndongeni to the ring this weekend was nearly floored when Boxing SA threatened to call it off.
The regulatory body had red-flagged his Tanzanian opponent due to his poor fight record.
But now Ndongeni will make his long-anticipated ring return in a Rumble Africa Promotions (RAP) event at the Orient Theatre on Sunday.
It will be his first piece of action after more than a year of inactivity which saw him hopping from one stable to the other looking for fights.
Having even gone to train in Mayweather Boxing Club in the US in a bid to revive his career, Ndongeni still found himself unable to secure a fight, forcing him to return home temporarily.
After the collapse of the SA junior-flyweight title fight between Bongani Silila and Luyanda Nkwankwa, Ndongeni’s handlers approached RAP about using him as a replacement.
An opponent in Tanzanian Hamis Gulaka was secured and everything looked good to go – until someone whispered about the poor record of the foreigner to BSA.
BSA CEO Tsholofelo Lejaka admitted he had not scrutinised Gulaka when his name was first presented for approval. Gulaka has lost all nine of his bouts while Ndongeni is yet to taste a defeat in 22 bouts.
Tournament matchmaker Luyanda Kana confirmed Lejaka called him on Tuesday about the choice of the Tanzanian as Ndongeni’s opponent. “He told me if we go ahead with the fight the sanctioning committee will not approve it,” said Kana.
With the fight a mere five days away, a scramble to find a replacement began, with concerns that yet again Ndongeni’s fight would fall through just as has been the case in the last 12 months.
Ndongeni was already in Cape Town for a bout – which was also later called off at the last minute.
Two other bouts failed to materialise when the boxer was already in camp preparing for them.
This included an opportunity to regain his IBO world lightweight title in a fight against Ghanaian Emmanuel Tagoe.
But this time Kana has managed to pull the rabbit out the hat by securing Malawian boxer Yohane Banda, and at last Ndongeni has the green light to end 13 long months of inactivity.
“Yes, we managed to secure a replacement in Yohane Banda and I must say we are relieved now,” said Kana.
While Banda is nowhere near a world-class boxer, having lost three times in eight bouts, his resumé is better than Gulaka’s. Kana said Banda’s handlers are even disputing the record, claiming their charge has fought five more times and is boasting a reputation of being a former Malawian champion.
Regardless of the authenticity of his opponent’s fight record, Ndongeni can now breathe a huge sigh of relief.
“Cancelling the fight would have destroyed Nomeva this time,” one of his handlers said.
“At least now he will get an opportunity to wear off the rust before going back to the US where he is promised a big fight.”