By Robson Sharuko
HARARE – RISING Zimbabwe boxing star Charles Manyuchi’s sensational first round demolition of Colombian Jose Augustin Julio Feria, in a World Boxing Council-sanctioned non-title bout in Harare last Friday night, has stoked grand expectations here that the pugilist could be on his way to superstardom.
There are some who believe Manyuchi, who at 26 is at the prime of his athletic powers, should challenge for the WBC welterweight crown that is currently held by American boxer, Andre “The Beast” Berto.
Manyuchi has built his profile, so far, fighting in Europe where he has won in Italy and Russia and will be returning there for a mandatory defence of his WBC welterweight silver title. But after his stunning performance last Friday, there are many of his countrymen and women who believe he is a real gem who should be fighting for the gold title.
The boxer, nicknamed “Busy Bee”, had never fought a high-profile bout on home soil after building his international career profile on foreign lands, under the guidance of his Zambian promoters, and his homecoming show lasted just more than two minutes of a devastating, and at times very stylish, performance that was spiced with some acts of showmanship.
His Zambian manager, Chris Malunga, revealed last Friday he would soon be travelling to the United States to try and open avenues for his rising pound-for-pound star who is blessed with both lightning speed, impressive hand movement and punching power.
The biggest opportunities, and the big money, in boxing is in the United States and if Malunga can find a way to get his boxer to fight there, many Zimbabweans believe he would have cleared the path for Manyuchi to become world champion.
“I know this lad from a very long time because I used to be the manager of his father Ottis, who was also a very good boxer, and I know that boxing runs in the family,” one of Zimbabwe’s pioneer boxing promoters, Philip Chiyangwa, who is now the ZIFA president, told The Southern Times.
“Charles is a thoroughbred boxer and I was there on Friday, ringside, to watch him fight and I never at any moment doubted that he was going to win the fight and also do it in style because he is that good, believe me, it’s something that runs in the family and they are very, very good athletes and boxers.
“His father was a champion in his own right and I’m not surprised that the son has made it this big and anyone who fights this boy, and is not in good shape, will be embarrassed because he has everything that a boxer needs, power, speed, endurance, and he is a good boy who concentrates on his sport.
“He is on the path to greatness.”
Manyuchi has won a lot of influential friends in Zimbabwe and his entourage, coming into the ring on Friday night, included local businessman, Wicknell Chivayo, who promised a financial windfall for the boxer after his demolition of the Colombian.
“If you do something remarkable for my country, you jump the long queue and automatically become my best friend,” Chivayo posted on his Facebook page. “I’m a winner and sorry I don’t associate with losers. He’s (Manyuchi) an amazing God-fearing happily married young man and doesn’t drink or smoke.
“He’s destined for greatness . . . future WBC gold champion.”
But, to get there, what are the hurdles which Manyuchi should clear?
Of course, the target would be to beat Berto, the American boxing star with Haitian roots, who is known as “The Beast”. Berto is number one in the rankings for the WBC welterweight crown held by fellow American Danny Garcia, who is unbeaten as a professional boxer having won all his 32 fights, including 18 by knockouts.
Berto is seven years older than Manyuchi and, at 33, he could be tested to the limit by younger and more athletic boxers like the rising Zimbabwean ace.
Known for his punching power, speed and endurance, Berto is a two-time former welterweight world champion and held the WBC title from 2008 to 2011, won the IBF title in 2011 and the WBA title last year and is considered one of the greatest boxers of his generation.
Ten years ago, ESPN.com named him as the most exciting prospect in boxing and he carried a 27-0 record when he finally lost his first match, a brutal contest against Victor Ortiz on April 16, 2011, by a unanimous decision in a loss that cost him the chance to meet Floyd Mayweather and the big money that came with such an assignment.
A brutal fight, between two pound-for-pound superstars, which Ortiz won, was named by Ring Magazine as the “Fight of the Year” for 2011.
Last year on August 4, after months of speculation, it was announced that Berto would finally fulfil his dream of taking on the unbeaten Mayweather in Las Vegas on September 12, but against the clinical and superior champion, he was never given a chance to land his knockout blows as “Money” dominated a one-sided contest with the three ringside judges declaring him the winner by an average of eight points.
Berto, though, walked away US$4 million richer.
Garcia, the champion, is 28 years old and is set to fight Samuel Vargas in a non-title fight in Las Vegas next month before taking on the hard-hitting Keith Thurman in February or March next year.