Lowdown on how matchmakers in boxing go about their business

Top trainer Colin Nathan and his new boxer, South African and IBF international junior bantam champion Phumelela Cafu.
Top trainer Colin Nathan and his new boxer, South African and IBF international junior bantam champion Phumelela Cafu.
Image: Supplied

It is difficult to build a fighter a promotion company believes can go to world-class level and potentially beyond without a world-class matchmaker who will choose the right opponents for advancing the boxer's career. 

This is according to Colin “Nomakanjani” Nathan, whose accomplishments as a trainer and manager have rewarded him with highest regard throughout the continent. 

He has gone through the long and thorny process of building careers and Hekkie Budler is one such fighter. 

After having served his internship under respected amateur trainer Nicky Ness, Budler turned professional under Nathan whose boxers fought under Golden Gloves. 

That promotion's matchmaking was done by Reuben Rasodi who began matching matches for VIP Promotions in 1971. 

One of the best matches he organised was the fight between Arthur “Fighting Pantsula” Mayisela and Ernest “The Duke” Moledi in Sebokeng, where Mayisela won on points. 

Rasodi knew fights that spoke to the promoter and fans, so it was easy for him to assist Nathan in grooming the “Hexecutioner”, who went on to become a household name.  

“That talks to good matchmaking from the start,” said Nathan.  

“As your fighter progresses you've got to be astute and keep your eye on it, but it is crucial to have a matchmaker who knows how to match and I am not talking about putting together mismatches.” 

He mentioned Abbey “Little Rock” Mnisi as “one hell of a matchmaker”.  

He is a former African Boxing Union junior bantamweight champion.  

Mnisi, 51, is from Thembisa and his matchmaking skills earned him the 2023 Boxing South Africa matchmaker of the year award. 

“He's still growing and is not arrogant — for him to say he does not always get it right says a lot about his personality,” said Nathan.  

“It takes an astute matchmaker whose judgment is crucial on getting the right fights at the right time.” 

Mnisi, in his own fight career, suffered an away decision to Mzi Dintsi in a controversial South African title fight at the Mdantsane Indoor Centre in East London in April 2001. 

Mnisi dominated for long periods.  

He dropped Dintsi in round two but referee Mthunzi Maphitiza did not count, all three judges scored the fight in favour of the local boxer by a point each. 

It was the second time Mnisi suffered a “low blow” against the same opponent.  

The first was when he stopped Dintsi over three rounds at Carnival City in Brakpan. 

Mnisi should have been awarded the South African and All Africa titles, but a decision made at the 11th hour ruled that only the All Africa title was up for grabs.  

He later quit and became a matchmaker. 

The quality of the product the promoter puts out to the public is largely dependent upon the sort of job his matchmaker does. 

Anyone can put two fighters into a ring with each other, but the better matchmakers are the ones who have enough skill to be able to strike a delicate balance between attaining a certain level of quality in the show and meeting the larger objectives. 

It is said the matchmaker has to find the “right fighters to make the right fights”, a term that is somewhat nebulous and a task easier said than done.  

But his job doesn’t stop there; the matchmaker has to follow up constantly to make sure his matches are solid and secure and make sure the fighters get to the fight destination. 

He must often preside over the weigh-in, act as a liaison of sorts between his employer and the boxing commission and frequently can be found scurrying around the venue on the night of the show making sure everything proceeds as planned. 

There are some matchmakers who are wedded to one promoter, but Mnisi is not, he works for every promoter who wants to use him. 

“Matchmaking is tougher than it looks,” said Mnisi.  

“It requires we assess what skills a fighter has and where their strengths lie and then select the opponent who can challenge them in other areas.” 

Matchmakers are licensed by Boxing SA but they negotiate their own financial remuneration with promoters. 

One such promotion company is Boxing 5 which will stage an international tournament at BoxCamp in Booysens on July 13. 

Mnisi did matchmaking and he has managed to get the signature of Siseko Makeleni — the East Londoner — who will be the dance partner for Kaine Fourie for the vacant IBF Continental Africa lightweight title. 

That bout will be the main attraction for Boxing 5. Director Larry Wainstein announced the line-up last week and was still searching for Fourie's opponent. 

Mnisi then did his magic to get Makeleni to agree to face the promising fighter from Johannesburg who has made a significant impression in a short time. 

Nicknamed “K9”, Fourie remains undefeated after seven fights.  

His biggest win was defeating experienced former South Africa and IBO champ Lusanda Komanisi. 

Makeleni, from the Eastern Cape, is no pushover, he's been around since 2014.  

He came very close to ending the reign of Prince Dlomo as the South African junior welterweight champ in their bout which Makeleni lost by a split points decision in 2021. 

He bounced back to chalk up two wins and improved to 10 wins in 14 fights. If recent performance is anything to go by, Fourie will be tested. 

Fourie, 22, is under the tutelage of successful trainer Gert Strydom who guided Shaun “God's Warrior” Potgieter to winning the South African heavyweight title from defending champion Keaton Gomes with an 11th round stoppage in April. 

That was sweet revenge for Potgieter, who was stopped in the first round by Gomes when they first fought in 2022.  

Potgieter will welcome Malawian ring veteran Mussa Ajibu over eight rounds in what will be the main supporting event to the Fourie-Makeleni title fight. 

Boxing 5 director Larry Wainstein said: “Boxing 5 is proud to host our first IBF intercontinental title, giving Kaine Fourie the opportunity as a stepping stone to propel his career.” 


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