Mabuza ready for title rematch
Appeal Sports Writer
Trainer Nic Durandt has a knack for understatement. Consider this gem he offered on his charge, Silence Mabuza, who will face IBF bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez in Saturday’s Showtime-televised main event at the MontBleu Outdoor Sports Pavilion.
“He was just an average kid growing up in a township in the apartheid era,” said Durandt, who has trained the 28-year-old Mabuza, of Johannesburg, South Africa, since 2000.
Mabuza, 19-1 with 15 knockouts, has been training at the Carson City Boxing Club for about a week in preparation for his rematch with Marquez. The 31-year-old Marquez, 35-3 (31), of Mexico City, will be defending his title for the seventh time.
Although Mabuza, a devout Christian who sings in his church’s choir (“You can’t get him to the gym on Sundays,” Durandt said Tuesday), lives up to his first name, there was nothing quiet about his life growing up in South Africa.
“He learned to fight in the streets,” said Durandt, who has trained 58 South African champions and 15 world champions, including heavyweight Hasim Rahman for 10 weeks prior to his upset knockout of world champion Lennox Lewis. “He was quite a street fighter. Boxers don’t come from universities. They come from the hoods and ghettoes. Do you think Mike Tyson went to Princeton? They come from the school of hard knocks.”
Sounding as smooth as the reggae music he was training to, Mabuza quietly reflected on his past.
“I grew up in that kind of situation,” he said of the apartheid era. “I grew up in a ghetto. It was a tough life. You had to survive. I lived alone with my mom. That’s how it was – survival of the fittest. I had to grow up in a tough life and I wanted to survive.”
Mabuza didn’t grow up playing in a world of video games and surfing the Internet and text messaging his friends. He took life one day – and one fight – at a time.
When he was “15 or 16” Mabuza decided he was good enough with his fists to maybe do something constructive with his talent and he proceeded to engage in the first of his 460 amateur bouts over the next seven years, losing about 14 matches.
For those counting, that’s better than one fight per week, a schedule that would make the busiest American amateur cringe.
Whereas if an American youth wants to win a National Golden Gloves title, he has to fight at the most five fights over five days at the state, then regional and finally national level, with a break in between in each tournament.
A boxer who wants to become the South African national champion must fight up to 18 times over three or four days. Not surprisingly, Mabuza said as he did on the streets, he had to learn to survive in the ring.
Beginning in 1999, Mabuza began to ply his trade as a professional and later went on to win the IBO bantamweight title in his 11th fight. He defended his belt six times and defeated former WBO bantamweight titlist Cruz Carbajal via 12-round unanimous decision in 2005.
Carbajal later tested positive for two banned substances, including steroids.
The bout was also an IBF title eliminator and the victory gave Mabuza a crack at Marquez, who is rated No. 1 in the 118-pound division by The Ring magazine.
The bout, televised on Showtime from Caesars Tahoe (now MontBleu) on Nov. 5, saw Marquez drop the South African with a left hook in the first round and eventually stop Mabuza in the fourth round because of cuts.
Nobody involved with the fight disputes that Mabuza was cut by a butt, but the question was whether the cut initially occurred from a punch before an unintentional head butt worsened that laceration and prompted the stoppage.
Referee Norm Budden, who didn’t have the luxury of looking at replays before making his call, ruled that the cut came from a punch before the butt worsened it.
The result was, instead of ruling the fight a no-contest because four rounds weren’t completed, the bout was ruled a technical knockout and Mabuza suffered his first loss.
Durandt said in his mind there is no dispute as to what happened.
“On the TV monitor, that’s my version,” he said. “The ref said he messed up on TV.”
In defense of Budden, Showtime showed him a replay of when the butt occurred, but it didn’t show whether a punch had landed earlier and in essence Budden had to make his comment in a vacuum.
“The referee’s a human being,” Durandt said. “Maybe his back was to the fighters. Maybe he didn’t get a view. (The butt) wasn’t intentional. But it should’ve been a technical draw. Four rounds were not completed.”
Durandt also downplayed the knockdown.
“We got up. (Marquez) couldn’t put him down again,” Durandt said. “He got caught early. From the middle rounds – four or five – (Mabuza) is most effective. It takes him two rounds to warm up. That’s always like him. He gives up three rounds and wins the next rounds after.”
Mabuza also felt he wasn’t given a fair shake.
“The fight was stopped unfairly,” Mabuza said. “It was a butt. (Budden) didn’t see it. Marquez wasn’t any different than what we saw on tape. He’s a basic type of boxer. He’s a strong puncher. But what I experienced wasn’t different or unexpected.”
In fact, Mabuza believes it was he who showed what he was made of.
“Number one, it showed my determination (by getting up),” he said. “And again, it showed my fitness. If you are knocked down in the first round and you are not fit, you won’t be able to survive. My fitness saw me through. I came back strong. I was determined to win.”
Durandt appealed to the IBF to have the result overturned or to get an immediate rematch for his boxer, but Mabuza had to instead face Ricardo Vargas in another title eliminator. Mabuza won via wide unanimous decision over Vargas on April 20.
Marquez had earlier defended his title against Vargas and took a unanimous decision, but Durandt said Mabuza was more impressive.
“Silence won by 10 points on all cards,” Durandt said. “And he put him down. He went to work, bottom line. We’ve seen and felt what Marquez has and we’re back for more. The chapter is unclosed for this fight. I’d like to think this will be the final chapter. Marquez didn’t give us the rematch. It wasn’t out of gratitude from Marquez.”
Staying true to form, Mabuza hasn’t taken the easy road to this fight and reportedly trains for a 24-round fight.
“Whatever he’s got, I’m ready,” Mabuza said. “And I’m ready to hit back. I do have the power and I believe in that power. I have 15 stoppages. That speaks about me.”
Durandt, a colorful character with several tattoos, a do-rag worn over long hair and dripping with gold jewelry, offered an equally colorful insight as to Mabuza’s chances in the rematch.
“It’s not mission impossible,” he said with a grin. “Marquez has three losses on his record, all by knockout. It’s not impossible. Silence is a boxer-puncher with very quick hands for his weight division. He carries power. Speed is an asset for a boxer-puncher like him who can move.
“Right now Marquez is the best in the world. We’re No. 2. We want to change that on Saturday. What a win will do for Silence is make him the pound-for-pound best bantamweight in the world. Silence told me, ‘He’s got my belt.'”
Mabuza, who has a wife of three years, Lerato, and three children from another relationship, said he has several reasons to win this fight.
“Number one, it’s a personal matter. It’s a contact sport,” Mabuza said. “At the end of the day, I’m getting in the ring with Marquez. Second, it’s about the pride of my country. In South Africa, we have the best boxers. At the end of the day, I want to show South Africa does have boxers. Given more opportunity, we’d have more champions. We’re overlooked because we are so far away.”
But Mabuza has an even more important reason to win the world title and that goes all the way back to when he was fighting on the streets in South Africa’s ghetto.
“My mother is my No. 1 supporter,” Mabuza said. “She’s forever there for me. She’s the source of inspiration for me since I was young. It’s time to pay her back.”
As Durandt might say, that was spoken just like an average kid growing up in a township in the apartheid era.
What: Seven-fight boxing card, including IBF bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez vs. Silence Mabuza and Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Terdsak Jandaeng for the vacant WBO Interim featherweight title.
Where: MontBleu Outdoor Sports Pavilion
When: 4 p.m. Saturday (doors open at 3)
Television: Showtime, 9 p.m. (delayed broadcast)
Ticket info: $200 (ringside), $125, $95 (box seats), $40 (bleachers). Available at MontBleu box office and concierge desk, by calling (800) 648-3353 or by logging on to [ http://www.ticketmaster.com/ ]www.ticketmaster.com or http://www.montbleuresort.com