Manyuchi landmark battle

By Robson Sharuko

HARARE – Zimbabwean boxer Charles Manyuchi returns to the ring next Saturday with his first South East Asia battle being billed as a landmark adventure that could lay the foundation for an ambitious project aimed at transforming Singapore as an international boxing hub to rival Las Vegas in the future.

The 27-year-old World Boxing Council welterweight silver champion will defend his belt against rising Uzbekistan boxer Quadratillo Abduqaxorov in the biggest boxing showdown in Singapore.

The match, at the OCBC Arena on March 25, has generated a lot of interest in Singapore as it pits two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the welterweight division whose handlers believe are full values for even the gold belt, with Manyuchi’s team making it clear their boxer could fight all his way to the very top.

Abduqaxorov’s handlers also believe they have a boxer with the potential to fight for the world championship and are taking the fight against Manyuchi as part of a show to demonstrate to the world that the Uzbekistan boxer is the real deal.

“On March 25, he will enter the ring for the biggest fight of his life when he takes on Charles Manyuchi for the Zimbabwean’s WBC welterweight Silver Title at the OCBC Arena, in the ‘Road to Glory’ event presented by Cartel International Promotions,” The New Paper of Singapore noted in the newspaper’s coverage of the Uzbek fighter’s upcoming battle next Saturday.

“A win over his 27-year-old opponent, who has 20 wins from 23 fights, will put Abduqaxorov in the frame for a shot at the WBC world title, once held by luminaries like Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr, and currently held by American Keith Thurman.

“He first laced up a pair of old leather gloves when he was 10, hoping it would be his way out of poverty. Now 23, Qudratillo Abduqaxorov is on the cusp of hitting the big time in the world of professional boxing.

“Born in the small Uzbek city of Kurgontepa, where the population of 20,000 people mainly work in cotton, tool or sewing factories, the fighter is determined to make the most out of his burgeoning boxing career.”

The Uzbek has 11 wins from 11 fights.

And Abduqaxorov believes he is in his best shape possibly to defeat Manyuchi, a boxer who has won in Italy and Russia in recent months, and who defeated his last opponent in the first round after a sensational onslaught.

“I am 100 percent sure I can beat Manyuchi but, having said that, I am sure he feels the same as well,” Abduqaxorov told The New Paper.

“I want to win the silver title more than anything I ever wanted up to this point in my life. I have had hardship all my life, and my family lives in poverty, boxing was the only option for me to change my life.

“Now I have the chance to put Uzbekistan on the world map, and also make my family proud.”

A four-time Uzbek national amateur boxing champion, who is known as the Punisher for the way he pounds his opponents, Abduqaxorov spent three weeks training at the Elorde Boxing Gym in Quezon City, Philippines, which legendary Filipino fighter Manny Pacquaio used as a training base before some of his fights.

Pacquaio could be one of the star-studded guests, with a ring-side seat, in Singapore on March 25, for this fight after the promoter Alexander Shah invited the legendary boxer to come and witness the biggest boxing show on Singapore soil.

“By the end of the year, I target to be in the top 10 in the world rankings, although I know how difficult it is,” boasts the Uzbek fighter.

“My long-term ambition is to be world champion and, one day, unify all the belts (from the four major boxing promotions), and become the undisputed lineal champion.”

But, for Shah, this project next Saturday presents him with another chance to pursue his dream of turning Singapore into an international boxing hub that could even rival Las Vegas, which is the Mecca of boxing.

“We want to give aspiring Singaporean boxers an opportunity to take part in such events and develop a pathway for our local talent to be part of such a prestigious boxing organisation like the WBC,” says Shah, who has also courted the presence of one of the region’s richest man, Tony Fernandez, the chief executive of AirAsia who also owns English Championship club Queens Park Rangers.

“Also, by bringing elite fighters to Singapore, we hope that local boxers can be inspired by them when watching them in action up close and adopt them as their role model, thus providing them with exposure to and experience in world-class boxing on a regular basis.

“The bulk of the money for boxing events is usually made through pay-per-view and television rights. In Singapore, unfortunately, there’s not much interest yet in terms of broadcast, unlike in the United States.

“But we have to start somewhere and, by our bringing in the big names, hopefully local and regional broadcasters will begin to take interest.

“Cartel is here for the long haul. We’re not a fly-by-night promotion. Essentially, we want to develop the sport and fan base here, so money is secondary for now.”

Shah has revealed he will roll out about US$550,000 to stage next Saturday’s boxing showcase but, while there is no guarantee his company will recoup that amount, he believes it is an investment that is badly needed right now for the game to be taken to another level in Singapore as he pursues his dream to turn his country into an international boxing hub.

“My aim is to put Singapore on the world map of boxing,” Shah told TODAY, a Singapore newspaper with a circulation of more than 300,000. “I’ve put my life into the sport and I believe big things can be done in Singapore. We used to be a country big on boxing but it has died down.

“However, interest in the sport is still strong and many fans are clamouring to watch elite-level boxers fight live. So we plan to bring the biggest names (such as) the likes of Pacquiaos and Mayweathers here to Singapore.

“We have world-class infrastructure and venues, and things are stable here politically and economically, so I think the conditions are ripe for Singapore to become a boxing hub in the region.”

March 2017
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