The Road to Shame
> Robson Sharuko
HARARE – He was the Golden Boy of Zimbabwean sport, a boxer whom the country believed could even become its first world champion, but – after a shocking first round defeat in Singapore on Saturday night – Charles Manyuchi’s profile is taking a huge battering while his popularity has also plunged dramatically.
In a nation that has had more than its fair share of match-fixing controversies, there are some – including the mainstream media – who are questioning if his shock defeat was choreographed by some Asian manipulators who cashed in on the fall of a champion who was the odds-on favourite to win.
Zimbabwe’s biggest selling newspaper, The Sunday Mail, ran with a headline that questioned whether Manyuchi had thrown the fight in Singapore on Saturday.
And, amid a Twitter fury over how the 27-year-old boxer meekly surrendered his WBC welterweight silver title after a first-round defeat to challenger Quadratillo “The Punisher” Abduqaxorov, many Zimbabweans are seeing shadows and demanding answers after Saturday’s shock events.
“We need an investigation,” Obert Masvotore, a Harare-based Manyuchi fan, told The Southern Times. “Everything doesn’t add up here and it’s hard to suggest that this was a fight that was fought above board.
“Of course, Charlie is not the first boxer to suffer a surprise first round knockout and he is not the last but the more you look at the video of the fight the more you see that things just don’t add up.
“Why was he so careless to the extent of exposing his chin, in the very first round, against a boxer he knew nothing about and why did he resort to all that showboating in the very first round given the significance of the bout?
“This is Singapore, in the heart of Asia, and a lot of things can happen there and that is why I feel there is need for us to be given a true picture of what exactly happened there.”
There is a reason why Zimbabweans are suspicious of the sporting event held in Asia’s results.
After all, the biggest scandal to hit Zimbabwean football, dubbed Asiagate by local media, is said to have happened in that part of the world when a number of makeshift national teams are alleged to have played friendly matches that were manipulated by a gang controlled by Singaporean match-fixing guru Wilson Raj Perumal between 2007 and 2009.
And, recently, a number of Asians, based in Singapore, were also implicated in the so-called Limpopogate match-fixing scandal that allegedly involved a plot to manipulate football matches in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
No wonder, against that background, there is suspicion in this country.
“But so easily? Asiagate? You never know these days,’’ a Zimbabwean who goes by the Twitter handle @Mayor tweeted while another one, who goes by the Twitter handle @MasvingoWoye, suggested Manyuchi was “too casual, too much disrespect for his opponent…how could he expose his face and body like that?’’
The Sunday Mail Sports Editor, Makomborero Mutimukulu, also took to Twitter and said “the opposition was waiting for him to do that. This guy (Abduqaxorov) is a heavy hitter, when he lands you feel it. You will never be a serious boxer when you cannot keep your guard up. Manyuchi has just paid the price for that”.
Manyuchi’s coach Chris Malunga conceded their technical approach was flawed.
“The technical approach was a bit bad on our side. Charles was careless,” he told Singapore’s newspaper, The New Paper. “That (the showboating) is his style of fighting, but I felt it was a bit early for him to do that.
“But good boxers have taken such knockout (defeats) and come back. So it’s a learning process for us.”
Journalist Sazali Abdul Aziz, who covered the fight for The New Paper, also said Manyuchi was a victim of his inflated belief he was the better fighter and did not need to do more to win the fight.
“He had boasted an easy title defence. In the end, Zimbabwean professional boxer Charles Manyuchi paid the price for his hubris, when he lost his World Boxing Council (WBC) welterweight Silver Title to Uzbekistan’s Qudratillo Abduqaxorov at the Battle of Champions: Road to Glory event at the OCBC Arena on Saturday night,’’ Aziz noted in his report.
“Qudratillo delivered a stunning knockout to Manyuchi with four seconds left in the first round to capture the prestigious belt that was held by British star Amir Khan two years ago.
“Manyuchi, 27, had goaded his 23-year-old rival in the week before the title fight, claiming he was ‘in a different league’ to the Asian. During the fight, the African let his guard down, clowning around in the ring and pretending his legs were wobbly.
“But Abduqaxorov connected with a left hook which floored Manyuchi, before following up with a barrage of shots that had the referee calling off the fight.’’
For the Asian boxer, a number of opportunities now lie in wait while Manyuchi – who dreamt of winning the world title one day – will have to work his way back to the top after this setback.