It was billed as a homecoming to remember and, true to expectations, Simpiwe Konkco did not disappoint when he saw off the tough challenge of Filipino Toto Landero to retain his IBO mini-flyweight title in Mthatha last weekend.
Konkco had not fought in 13 months but coming into the fight, it hardly showed as he displayed a vintage jab to pile up the points. Here he chats to us about the fight.
BOXING MECCA: How is the body feeling right now Gaba? It must be sore from those swings.
SIMPIWE KONKCO: It is definitely sore, especially as it has been a while since it got subjected to that kind of stuff. But I am up and about, so it is nothing serious.
BM: I guess you are visiting family members and old friends there (in Mthatha).
SK: Yes I have to make time to see them when I am down here in Mthatha, because they are my pillar of strength. I will leave for Johannesburg immediately ...
BM: ...(cutting in)...when?
SK: This week I will be back in the City of Gold. There is no reason for me to stick here for long because I have unfinished business in Johannesburg. I still have not achieved what I went there for.
BM: Lets talk about Landero and his fight strategy.
SK: ... (cutting in) Hey bhuti the boy was here to take the title. Hunger was written all over his face and had I underestimated him, I could have had the shock of my life.
BM: Actually he revealed to the Philippines’ media that was the way he was going to fight to make sure he knocks you out after claiming he was robbed of a win in Thailand.
SK: To be honest with you, he came with a different strategy than what we anticipated. In the video footage we saw he liked fighting on the backfoot, so we thought he would do that. That is how he fought in Thailand in that fight where he claimed he was robbed. But to be honest, he was not robbed in Thailand because he appeared to be fighting for survival. Against me he really wanted the belt with those haymakers he threw at me.
BM: How did you avoid those haymakers after such a long time out of the ring? I figured one of them would hit home due to mistiming.
SK: Colin (Nathan, his trainer) told me to be composed and time him as he threw abaphephela (haymakers). All I needed to do was to work the jab as he began to throw them, and ended up missing.
BM: I overheard Colin shouting something to you.
SK: Yes, he was not happy that I did not make him pay for his misses. What I did was to dodge his swinging haymakers, slipping beneath them, but did not throw a counter. I think that was the mistake I made during the fight.
BM: Ever a self-critic! After each and every fight you always criticise yourself regardless of how long you have been out of the ring.
SK: But that is what happened bhuti. I did not put in a polished performance and I feel I could have done better.
BM: Oh, in a scale of 10 what would you give yourself?
SK: I think I would give myself 7,5.
BM: I think you are unfair to yourself to give yourself that low mark, when you have been out of the ring for over a year and you are now 32 years old. But that is what I have come to expect from you. There was a round when you threw body blows that visibly slowed Landero down.
SK: Yes and I did that for about two rounds until they figured me out, by countering with those swings. I realised that he would stand a better chance of catching me upstairs while going downstairs, so I went back to using the jab.
BM: I guess the next step now is to unify the titles.
SK: That should be the next logical step bhuti. I am not getting any younger now and I am highly rated by the WBC so we should push for it.
BM: But I guess what you would mostly like to avoid is being inactive for a long period again.
SK: Inactivity is never good for any boxer much less for those fighting in the small divisions like me. I would be glad if I could return to the ring before the end of the year to sharpen my reflexes. Then people would see a polished Konkco.
BM: I am asking because I see that the IBF champion from Japan is vacating and moving up a division. It would be ideal for you to contest for the vacant belt but I see that you are not highly rated in the IBF.
SK: That would have been a fantastic opportunity to fight for that title but I know Colin and Rodney Berman. They are well versed in these kind of situations so they will handle everything for me.
BM: Before we go Gaba, you cannot go without thanking the people who came in their numbers to support you.
SK: I am at a loss for words here bhuti. To come back home and get that kind of reception is humbling. When they started to sing during the fight it reminded me the times of Mthatha Bush Bucks at Independence Stadium and I realised what it meant for the people of Mthatha for me to fight in front of them.
It lit up fire under my belly and there was no way I would lose with that kind of support. I am grateful to them and to anyone who supported me and made it possible for me to return to the ring.